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College recognizes humanitarian, chemist, alumna with awards at commencement

| Friday, May 16, 2014

Editor’s Note: A version of this report appeared in the March 6 edition of The Observer.

Commencement Day at Saint Mary’s celebrates more than just the graduating class of 2014 — this year, the College will honor several alumnae and other women who have made a difference around the world.

Judith Mayotte will deliver the Commencement address, according to a College press release. The humanitarian, professor, author and Emmy Award-winning producer will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree at the ceremony.

“Judith Mayotte is an internationally recognized humanitarian who has spent her life working to affect positive change for refugees and others,” College President Carol Ann Mooney said in a statement.

Mayotte has served on several human rights-activist boards, including Refugees International, the Women’s Refugee Commission as chair, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, the International Rescue Committee, Visionaries and the Global Ethics and Religion Forum, the press release stated.

The Clinton administration appointed Mayotte in 1994 to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration as a special adviser on refugee issues and policy. She has earned recognition from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which honored her with the Foundation’s World Citizenship Award in 2009, according to the press release.

Chemist Helen Murray Free will also receive an honorary doctorate at Commencement. Free conducted research on diagnostic testing that resulted in improvements for products in laboratory and home settings, according to the press release.

“I am delighted to recognize two exceptional women this year with honorary degrees from Saint Mary’s College,” Mooney said in the release. “Their backgrounds and achievements fit perfectly with our dreams for our graduates.”

Free and her late husband, biochemist Alfred Free, worked in medical diagnostics. Together, they researched and developed the first dip-and-read diagnostic test strips that quantify glucose levels in urine, the press release stated.

Free has obtained seven patents and has received awards ranging from the 1980 American Chemical Society’s Garvan Medal to the 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation and the American Chemical Society’s 66th National Historic Chemical Landmark designation in 2010, according to the press release.

Sara Belanger, a 1971 alumna, will receive the President’s Medal at Commencement, which “is presented rarely and exclusively to those who have offered exceptional contributions to the life of the College and the community,” the release stated. Belanger served on the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees and the Alumnae Association Board of Directors.

“Sarah has demonstrated her devotion to and love for Saint Mary’s College throughout the many years she has served the College as a valued member of the Board of Trustees and the Alumnae Association Board of Directors,” Mooney said.

Earley is one of three chairs directing the College’s $80 million “Faith Always, Action Now” capital campaign. She and her husband, Notre Dame alumnus Tony Earley, agreed to match $1 million in the fundraising to renovate and expand Angela Athletic Facility.

“The gift has been a catalyst for additional gifts toward what will be called the Angela Athletic & Wellness Complex, a facility that will be a central gathering spot that provides space for fitness and wellness, classes, varsity teams, intramurals and the Women’s Health Center,” the press release stated.

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