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CEO to address Saint Mary’s graduates

Kelly Rice | Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Social entrepreneur Kyle Zimmer will speak at the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013 at Saint Mary’s College on Saturday.

Zimmer, a 1986 graduate of the George Washington School of Law, is the president and CEO of First Book, a non-profit organization that provides books to children in need. According to a College press release, she founded and became president of First Book in 1995. Under her leadership, the organization has distributed over 100 million books to children nationwide.

“I think we each have an obligation to [support] social justice,” Zimmer said. “It is critical for each of us to leave a positive mark on the world. In my case, I left my career as a lawyer to tackle the lack of books and resources available to kids in need, co-founding First Book with two friends more than 20 years ago. And we’ve been working ever since to develop innovative, market-driven models to address that need.”

Silvia Cuevas, senior class president, said she is looking forward to Zimmer’s address. Cuevas said she expects Zimmer’s accomplishments will allow her to craft a memorable commencement address.

“The excitement beams from my face when I think of commencement and what’s to come after Saint Mary’s,” Cuevas said. “Kyle Zimmer speaking during our commencement will be extraordinary – I am excited to listen about her path to leave a positive mark on the world and become a pioneer for change.”

Cuevas said she hopes Zimmer’s success in business and “inspiring” career will motivate her peers to work for social justice.

“My peers and I are hoping to be in her shoes someday, as women who know their potential to create something for the greater good of all,” she said. “The college made an excellent choice, the class of 2013 will be itching to go out and be the change ourselves after we hear Zimmer speak.”

Senior Dani Haydell said she expects Zimmer’s speech to be inspiring because of Zimmer’s career as a woman working for change.

“I am excited for Zimmer to speak at commencement because she is a good example of what women can accomplish when they put their time, effort, and heart into something,” Haydell said. “Also, the fact that the company she is president of is working to make the lives of others better is a good example that women definitely are responsible for a huge part in changing the world and making it better.”

Zimmer said she is happy to be speaking at an all-women’s institution where women have had the opportunity to develop their unique skills and to collaborate with one another.

“What makes an all-women’s education unique is the opportunity to celebrate and develop each woman’s leadership abilities and to gain an understanding of our own value systems – what’s important to us, what drives us … and the opportunity to make our voices heard and the mutual support we provide each other as we learn together.”

She said she values each person for her unique contributions and will encourage graduates to collaborate with one another.

“I value collaboration over competition,” Zimmer said. “We can make a bigger impact and develop better solutions together than we can on our own. I also believe there is huge creative power in fun – and so fun has played a role in my work.”

Zimmer said she plans to address the world’s need for smart and innovative thinkers in her speech. She said she hopes to encourage graduates to work for social justice by supporting a cause that drives them like her passion for education reform pushes her to action.

“We need Saint Mary’s graduates to make their impact felt in the world,” Zimmer said. “The important thing to remember is that we all have contributions to make and we can create positive change on multiple levels: through our families, in our communities, in our places of worship, through our work, and through our volunteer efforts. The critical thing is to take action and not sit on the sidelines.”

Zimmer will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree from the College, according to a College press release.

“Saint Mary’s’ focus on the importance of social responsibility makes this honorary degree particularly meaningful for me,” Zimmer said. “Knowing that I’m associated with accomplished women of all ages who take this charge to heart, to address problems at home and abroad, is both inspiring and profoundly humbling.”

Contact Kelly Rice at [email protected]