Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Radio Icon Diane Rehm, Novelist Raymond Federman to be Honored at Washington College's 2009 Commencement, May 17

Chestertown, MD — National Public Radio's Diane Rehm, a living legend of broadcast journalism, will address the graduates at Washington College's 2009 Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 17. Rehm will receive an honorary degree in addition to being guest speaker at this year's Commencement.

Also addressing the graduating class will be French-American novelist Raymond Federman, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters along with Rehm.

Ceremonies will begin at 10:30 a.m. on the Campus Lawn. Rain site is the Benjamin A. Johnson Lifetime Fitness Center by ticket only.

A highlight of Washington College's Commencement is the annual awarding of the Sophie Kerr Prize, the largest undergraduate literary prize in the nation. It's larger than ever this year, totaling $68,814.

The prize was established by the will of the late Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, Md., whose generosity has done so much to enrich the College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to the College, specifying that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor" and the other half be used to bring visiting writers to campus, to fund scholarships, and to help defray the costs of student publications.

For more than two decades, consummate interviewer Diane Rehm has offered her listeners compelling conversations with the world's most interesting and important people. Her award-winning program has a weekly audience of more than 2.2 million people in the United States, with additional listeners in Japan and Europe. In 2007 and 2008, The Diane Rehm Show was named to the Top 10 list of the most powerful programs in public radio, based on its ability to draw listeners to public radio stations.

Rehm has embraced new technological platforms to engage her listeners—she holds monthly online chats, takes questions for her guests on Twitter, and has more than 6,000 fans on Facebook.

Listeners tune to "The Diane Rehm Show" for a lively mix of current events and public affairs programming that ranges from hard news analysis of politics and international affairs to in-depth examinations of religious issues, health and medical news, education and parenting.

Rehm is a master at presenting the personal essences of others, her list of guests is impressive: Bill Clinton, John McCain, Madeleine Albright, Sandra Day O'Connor, Ralph Nader, Tim Russert, Cokie Roberts, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Deepak Chopra, Maurice Sendak, Maya Angelou and many, many others.

The most popular segment of "The Diane Rehm Show" is the News Roundup. Each Friday, Rehm reviews the week's top national and international news stories with a panel of journalists. Roundup regulars include NPR's Daniel Schorr, Gerald Seib of The Wall Street Journal, William Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Susan Page of USA Today, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, Jodie Allen of U.S. News & World Report, and syndicated columnists Steve Roberts and Tony Blankley.

Rehm also has forged a successful career as a writer, publishing two autobiographical books. In Finding My Voice, the host talks about her childhood, marriage, broadcast career and vocal difficulties. Published by Knopf in 1999, it is now in its fourth printing. Together with her husband John, Rehm co-authored Toward Commitment: A Dialogue about Marriage, a book focusing on the art of building and maintaining a strong relationship. The book was published in September 2002 by Knopf.

In 1998, Rehm was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological condition that causes strained, difficult speech. After finding treatment, she wrote several articles and produced a program about the little-known disorder. The National Council on Communicative Disorders recognized her work with a Communication Award, and the Maryland Speech-Hearing-Language Association honored her with a Media Award. ABC's "Nightline" host Ted Koppel devoted an entire program to a conversation with Rehm about her disorder.

Rehm has received many personal honors over the years, including being named a Paul H. Nitze Senior Fellow at St. Mary's College of Maryland and becoming an inductee into the Class of 2004 Hall of Fame by the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She was also honored as a fellow by the Society of Professional Journalists, the highest honor the society bestows on a journalist. In 1999, she was named a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine.

Raymond Federman is a French-American novelist and academic, known also for poetry, essays, translations and criticism. He held positions at the University at Buffalo from 1973 to 1999, where he is now Distinguished Emeritus Professor.

Federman is a writer in the experimental style, one that seeks to deconstruct traditional prose. This type of writing is quite prevalent in his book Double or Nothing, in which the linear narrative of the story has been broken down and restructured so as to be nearly incoherent. Words are also often arranged on pages to resemble images or to suggest repetitious themes.

Born in Montrouge, France, Federman emigrated to the U.S. in 1947. He studied at Columbia University and as a graduate at U.C.L.A., where he earned a doctorate in comparative literature on Samuel Beckett. He is also a co-founder of the Fiction Collective, a publishing house dedicated to experimental fiction and its writers.

Also being honored at the 2009 Commencement is alumnus Zung Nguyen '77. A Senior Client Advisor with J.P. Morgan Private Client Services, Nguyen is receiving the Washington College Alumni Citation in recognition of outstanding achievements and services in the field of finance.

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