Teach For America Founder Wendy Kopp to Deliver Commencement Address


Wendy Kopp, founder and chief executive officer of Teach for America, the nonprofit organization that enlists top college graduates to teach in under-resourced urban and public schools, will deliver the main address at Dartmouth College’s 2012 Commencement exercises on Sunday morning, June 10, on the Green.

Wendy Kopp (courtesy Wendy Kopp)

Kopp proposed the creation of Teach For America in her undergraduate senior thesis at Princeton in 1989 and has spent the last two decades building and running the organization. Today, more than 9,000 corps members teach in 43 regions across the country. Teach For America offers coveted, highly selective, two-year commitments to recent graduates who help continuously raise the quality of education in poor school systems. Their time in the classroom leads many TFA participants to become lifelong advocates for the expansion of educational opportunity.

“It’s a tremendous honor to address the Class of 2012. Dartmouth students have always had a strong commitment to public service, and many have gone on to become some of Teach For America’s most outstanding corps members and alumni,” said Kopp, who will also receive an honorary degree at the event.

“Conan O’Brien is a tough act to follow, but I’ll do my best,” Kopp said of last year’s Commencement speaker.

Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim will deliver the Valedictory Address to the graduates. The valedictorian from the undergraduate senior class will also speak at the event. The valedictorian will be announced the week of Commencement, after final grades are calculated.

The other honorary degree recipients are:

  • South African musician, cultural activist, and anthropologist Johnny Clegg
  • Renowned chemist, chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, and Dartmouth alumna and trustee Marye Anne Fox, PhD ’74
  • Greenland human rights leader and politician Aqqaluk Lynge
  • Philanthropist, arts patron, and Dartmouth alumnus and trustee Steven Roth ’62, Tuck ’63
Dartmouth typically awards approximately 1,000 bachelor’s degrees and approximately 600 master’s and doctoral degrees in the arts and sciences and from the College’s three professional schools: the Geisel School of Medicine, Thayer School of Engineering, and Tuck School of Business.

The academic procession to the Green begins at 9:30 a.m., and visitors are advised to be in their seats by that time. Commencement ceremonies begin at 10 a.m.

Biographical information for speaker and honorary degree recipients

Wendy Kopp (Doctor of Humane Letters)Founder and chief executive officer, Teach For America and Teach For All

Wendy Kopp founded Teach For America in 1989 to marshal the energy of her generation against educational inequity in the United States. Today, 9,000 Teach For America corps members—top recent college graduates in all academic disciplines—are in the midst of two-year teaching commitments in the nation’s highest-need urban and rural regions. Teach For America has proven to be an unparalleled source of long-term leadership for educational change.

Kopp is also CEO and co-founder of Teach For All, which is fueling a global movement to ensure educational excellence and equity by accelerating the impact of national organizations that are enlisting their nations’ most promising future leaders in the effort. Four years into its development, Teach For All is a growing network of 23 independent organizations around the world, including its co-founders Teach For America and the United Kingdom’s Teach First. Kopp is the author of the recent book A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All.


Johnny Clegg (Doctor of Humane Letters)South African musician, cultural activist, and anthropologist

One of South Africa’s most celebrated sons, Johnny Clegg was born in England and grew up in his mother’s native Zimbabwe, and later South Africa. A singer, songwriter, dancer, anthropologist, and musical activist, his infectious crossover music—a vibrant blend of Western pop and African Zulu rhythms—has broken down barriers in South Africa. In France, where he enjoys a large following, he is fondly called Le Zulu Blanc—the white Zulu.

Over three decades, he has sold more than five million albums worldwide. He has wowed audiences with his live shows, including performances with Nelson Mandela, and won a number of national and international awards for his music and for his outspoken views on apartheid and migrant workers in South Africa. He has released two dozen albums, the most recent of which is Human, in 2010.


Marye Anne Fox, PhD ’74 (Doctor of Science)Renowned chemist, chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, Dartmouth alumna and trustee

Marye Anne Fox is chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, where she is also a distinguished professor of chemistry. Considered one of the nation’s most creative physical organic chemists, Fox has published extensively in organic photochemistry and electrochemistry, and her work has applications in materials science, solar energy conversion, and environmental chemistry.

In 2010, President Obama presented her with the National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor awarded in the United States. Previously, Fox served as a science advisor to George W. Bush during his tenure as governor of Texas, and later on President Bush’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. She currently serves on the boards of W.R. Grace and Red Hat. She has served on the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees and on numerous other boards, including the Welch Foundation, Council on Competitiveness, Association of American Universities, University of California President’s Board on Science and Innovation, and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation’s Scientific Affairs Committee.


Aqqaluk Lynge (Doctor of Humane Letters)Greenland human rights leader, politician, and writer

Greenlander Aqqaluk Lynge is an Inuit human rights leader, politician, and writer. He has represented the Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and the Far East of Russia as chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council from 1997 to 2006 and 2009 to the present. He was the first leader of the Greenland socialist party, Inuit Ataqatigiit, which he co-founded in the 1970s, and has promoted the rights of indigenous peoples both in Greenland and globally since his youth. He was first elected to the Greenland Parliament in 1983, and has served as a member of Parliament and minister of various portfolios.

He has been instrumental in the development of Dartmouth’s increased visibility in Arctic science and policy, was keynote speaker in 2007 at a Hood Museum exhibition, served as a Dickey Fellow in 2008, and in 2009 participated in the Dartmouth-Carnegie Endowment for International Peace conference on Climate Change and Arctic Security. Lynge is also widely published, having written poetry and essays, and also books on politics.


Steven Roth ’62, Tuck ’63 (Doctor of Humane Letters)Philanthropist, arts patron, Dartmouth alumnus and trustee, and real estate manager

A noted patron of the arts and philanthropist at Dartmouth and beyond, Steven Roth has been cited as one of the world’s most respected CEOs by Barron’s magazine. He is chairman of the board and past CEO of Vornado Realty Trust, co-founder and managing general partner of Interstate Properties, and chairman and CEO of Alexander’s Inc. He has served on the boards of numerous foundations, including the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and New York University School of Medicine Foundation.

Roth, this year attending his 50th Dartmouth reunion, has provided years of service to the College, where he has had a lasting impact on culture and the arts. His Dartmouth service includes participation as a trustee since 2008—currently he is chairing the board’s Finance Committee—and past memberships on the Alumni Council, President’s Leadership Council, Dartmouth College Fund Committee, and Tuck Board of Overseers. His family was principal donor to the Roth Center for Jewish Life at Dartmouth and has endowed two distinguished professorships and an academic fellowship.

Dartmouth graduates and Teach For America

More than 120 Dartmouth graduates have signed on with Teach For America since 2005. They have served in under-resourced school districts all over the United States, from Hawaii to Greater Newark, N.J., and also in Baltimore, Chicago, the Mississippi Delta region, Rio Grande Valley, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C.

Here’s a look at the numbers of Dartmouth TFA teachers over the years.

2012 accepted to date: more than 40 2011: 27 2010: 22 2009: 16 2008: 15 2007: 10 2006: 22 2005: 17

Additional Commencement Information

Saturday, June 9: Speakers for Dartmouth’s professional schools’ Class Day and Investiture ceremonies; and for Baccalaureate Service

A variety of ceremonies take place before Commencement, including Class Day and Investiture ceremonies for Dartmouth’s three professional schools, and Baccalaureate, a multifaith service open to all graduates and their guests. Those events, in chronological order, and their speakers are:

  • 9 a.m., Geisel School of Medicine: Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center Courtyard. Speaker: Paul Farmer MD, PhD, co-founder with Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim of Partners in Health. Student speakers to be announced.
  • 10 a.m., Thayer School of Engineering: Spaulding Auditorium, Hopkins Center. Speaker: Robert M. Metcalfe PhD, Professor of Innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise, Cockrell School of Engineering, University of Texas at Austin.
  • 3 p.m., Tuck School of Business: Tuck Circle. Speaker: Steven Roth ’62, Tuck ’63, chairman of the board of Vornado Realty Trust, Dartmouth trustee, and 2012 honorary degree recipient. Student speaker to be announced. (In case of rain, Leede Arena.)
  • 3 p.m., Baccalaureate: Rollins Chapel. Speaker: The Rev. Serene Jones PhD, president of Union Theological Seminary.
See the Commencement website for further information.
Susan J. Boutwell