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NATO Leader, Columbia Law Professor to Give Commencement Addresses at ODU

A senior leader of NATO and a well-known Columbia University law professor will deliver remarks to graduates at Old Dominion University's 115th commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 17. Approximately 1,100 graduates will take part in the two ceremonies.

Gen. Stéphane Abrial, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, will give the commencement address at the 9 a.m. ceremony for graduates of the Darden College of Education, Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology and College of Sciences. He will also receive a Doctor of Science honorary degree.

Patricia Williams, the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law and author of the monthly "Diary of a Mad Law Professor" column for The Nation magazine, will speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony to graduates of the College of Arts and Letters, College of Business and Public Administration and College of Health Sciences.

Both ceremonies will be video streamed live and can be accessed Sunday, Dec. 18, from the university's home page at www.odu.edu.

Abrial, of the French Air Force, assumed duties as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (ACT) in September 2009. As such, he is one of the most senior and influential leaders in NATO, an alliance whose role is to safeguard the freedom and security of its 28 member nations by both political and military means. In addition, NATO works with 22 partner countries in a multilateral forum for dialogue on political and security-related issues.

Abrial is the first European to be appointed permanently as head of a NATO strategic command. He directs a staff of more than 1,200 personnel who develop the conceptual framework for future joint international operations, and who also conduct research, experimentation and technological development in support of future NATO requirements. In addition, Abrial directs several NATO bodies in Europe, including the NATO Undersea Research Center in Italy and the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Center in Portugal. He also oversees the programs of various NATO schools or national centers of excellence.

Williams is the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia. Her wry, witty columns for The Nation cover broad issues of social justice, including the rhetoric of the war on terror, race, ethnicity, gender, all aspects of civil rights law, bioethics and eugenics, forensic uses of DNA, and comparative issues of class and culture in the United States, France and Britain.

As a law professor, Williams has testified before Congress, acted as a consultant and coordinator for a variety of public interest lawsuits and served as a past member of the boards of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Society of American Law Teachers and the National Organization for Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is the recipient of the Alumnae Achievement Award from Wellesley College, the Graduate Society Medal from Harvard and the MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant.

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees will be presented to Baron and Ellin Gordon, of Williamsburg, Va., at the afternoon ceremony.

Baron Gordon and his wife, Ellin, are among the leading American folk art collectors in the United States. A retired member of the New York Stock Exchange, Baron Gordon was one of the early board members of the Folk Art Society of America. He is a native of Norfolk and served as an officer in the U.S. Navy. Both he and his wife have been members of the National Advisory Board of the Folk Art Society of America for many years.

Ellin Gordon served as chairman of the board of the Rye Country Day School (Rye, N.Y.) and then became director of admissions. She is a longtime volunteer at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum in Williamsburg. She has also given numerous talks and lectures about their collection and their relationships with many of the artists.

In 2007, the Gordons donated 375 folk art works by self-taught artists from their collection to Old Dominion. Pieces included paintings, sculptures, jugs, canes and carvings. The Baron and Ellin Gordon Self-Taught Art Gallery at ODU showcases self-taught art and its relation to contemporary art with exhibitions drawing on the permanent collection and loans to the galleries. A second gallery, the changing gallery, focuses on works by contemporary artists of international, national and regional repute. The Gordon gift is the largest art donation ever given to ODU.

This article was posted on: December 17, 2011

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