Slide background

Millsaps College Announces Honorary Degree Recipients for 2017 Commencement

by Web on April 19, 2017

2017 Commencement

A ground-breaking journalist, a nationally known litigator, and a former Mississippi Governor and Secretary of the Navy have been announced as honorary degree recipients for the 2017 commencement exercises at Millsaps College. 

Joanne Edgar, Roberta Kaplan, and Ray Mabus will receive the degrees during commencement, scheduled for Saturday, May 6, at 9:30 a.m. on the Millsaps campus.

“We are proud to welcome these outstanding individuals back to the Millsaps campus, and to recognize their contributions to our state and our nation,” said Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College. “Each of them has made a lasting impact across the country and beyond.”

Joanne Edgar, a 1965 graduate of Millsaps College, is a founding editor of Ms. magazine, where she worked from 1971 to 1989. She also served as senior editor and managing editor of the magazine.

An active student at Millsaps, where she earned a degree in history, Edgar participated in meetings with students at Tougaloo College and endured intimidating tactics from groups such as the White Citizens Council. After graduating from Millsaps, Edgar earned a master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia University in New York City.

She continues her advocacy work today as a strategic communications consultant and writer, working with foundations and nonprofit organizations to support social change.

Roberta Kaplan is a partner in the litigation department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City and an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University Law School. She has been described as a “litigation superstar,” a “powerhouse corporate litigator,” and a “pressure junkie” who “thrives on looking at the big picture” whether “in the gay-marriage legal fight or high-profile corporate scandals.”

Kaplan is perhaps best known for her successful argument before the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case of United States v. Windsor, in which the Court “ruled that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the U.S. Constitution by barring legally married same-sex couples from enjoying the wide-ranging benefits of marriage conferred under federal law.” She led the fight in Mississippi to allow adoption of children by same-sex couples, and also played the lead role in the successful challenge of HB1523, Mississippi’s “religious freedom” bill that was struck down by District Judge Carlton Reeves.

Kaplan is also the author of Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA, which was hailed as one of the top 10 books of 2015 by the Los Angeles Times.

Secretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2017, Ray Mabus was the longest-serving secretary since World War I. Under his leadership, the Navy reversed a decline in the size of its fleet and focused on the use of biofuels in naval vessels. Mabus, who visited over 150 countries and territories and all 50 states during his service as secretary, remains a vocal advocate for diversity among service members in the military.

Mabus served as state auditor in Mississippi, and in 1988, became the youngest governor in the United States when he was elected at the age of 39. After his service as governor, Mabus served in the Clinton administration as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Since leaving his role as Secretary of the Navy, Mabus remains active as a lecturer at Harvard Business and Law Schools, an advisor to Google Ventures, and serves as a director on public and private corporate boards as well as a consultant to various business entities.