Lafayette will award three honorary degrees at its 186th Commencement on Sunday: President Alison Byerly, Doctor of Humane Letters; community leader Dick McAteer, Doctor of Public Service; and poet Yolanda Wisher ’98, Doctor of Letters.
The following (not including photos) will appear in the Commencement program:
Appointed Lafayette’s president in 2013, Byerly launched a 10-year strategic direction, Affordability and Distinction through Growth, in 2016 to increase the size of the student body by 16 percent while more than doubling the financial aid budget and adding 40 new faculty positions. The plan has made the College more accessible to students from a range of backgrounds while supporting an expansion of the curriculum in innovative and interdisciplinary areas. The incoming classes enrolled after the launch of the plan brought the highest SAT scores and greatest student diversity in Lafayette’s history.
Byerly led Lafayette through its Live Connected, Lead Change fundraising campaign, which raised $426 million, exceeding its $400 million goal. The campaign raised more than $85 million for financial aid, created 195 new endowed scholarships, endowed 17 faculty positions, and resulted in the Williams Arts Campus, Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center, Oechsle Center for Global Education, Bradbury Dyer III ’64 Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Daniel and Heidi ’91 Hanson Center for Inclusive Stem Education. It also raised $31 million to support engineering and generated significant funds for athletics.
Byerly previously was provost and executive vice president at Middlebury College. During her tenure on Middlebury’s faculty, she served as a visiting scholar at MIT, Stanford, and Oxford. She is the author of two scholarly books—Are We There Yet? Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism and Realism, Representation, and the Arts in Nineteenth-Century Literature—and has written and spoken extensively on the role of technology in higher education.
Alison Byerly will become president of Carleton College on August 1.
A member and former chair of Easton Redevelopment Authority, McAteer helped facilitate public-private partnerships to rehabilitate foreclosed homes as affordable residences; to convert long-vacant commercial buildings into offices, shops, and restaurants; and to transform downtown Easton into a cultural destination and culinary hub. He was founder and a board member of Greater Easton Development Partnership, a public-private organization serving as a complement to the Easton Redevelopment Authority focused on community economic development.
McAteer was instrumental in launching Easton Ambassadors, a force that helps keep the downtown clean, safe, and hospitable. He and his wife, Mary Jane, are fellow recipients of the Community Caring Award. In collaboration with Lafayette’s president at the time, Arthur Rothkopf ’55, McAteer helped secure $3 million in state funds that paved the way for Lafayette’s Williams Arts Campus. He was the first recipient of Lafayette’s annual Daniel H. Weiss Award in recognition of his leadership in strengthening the town-gown relationship.
In partnership with Lafayette faculty, McAteer developed and expanded Karl Stirner Arts Trail, a sanctuary for walking, biking, and bird watching, along with a dog park and temporary and permanent sculpture installations, that runs along the Bushkill Creek, and a historic silk mill refurbished as a bustling village of residences, studios, and artisanal businesses.
McAteer also is a member of Lafayette’s Easton Community Partners Forum.
Wisher was appointed the inaugural poet laureate of Montgomery County in 1999 and was poet laureate of Philadelphia in 2016.
Wisher is the author of the poetry collection Monk Eats an Afro. Her work has been included in the anthologies Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, and A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years.
Founder and director of Germantown Poetry Festival, Wisher has served as director of art education for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. A Pew Fellow, she received an Art and Change grant from the Leeway Foundation and is one of the founding cultural agents for the citizen-run U.S. Department of Arts and Culture.
Blending poetry, blues, and jazz, her band, the Afroeaters, has performed on NPR Music’s Live Sessions and for events hosted by Philadelphia Museum of Art, Free Library of Philadelphia, U.S. Department of Arts & Culture, and Barnes Foundation.
Wisher teaches poetry workshops, and her works are featured at many poetry events as well as in newspaper and magazine articles, radio segments, and podcasts.
She was represented this year among historical markers installed by Temple University that honored select Temple faculty and alumni for Women’s History Month.