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More than 1,000 graduates are expected to participate in Old Dominion University's 107th commencement ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 15 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. The university will award six honorary degrees and former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and author M.G. Vassanji will speak.
Snow will speak at the 9 a.m. ceremony for graduates of the colleges of Engineering and Technology, Education and Sciences, and Vassanji will speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony for the colleges of Arts and Letters, Business and Public Administration and Health Sciences.

Snow, 52, is a native of Berea, Ky., and grew up in Cincinnati. He earned his bachelor's degree at Davidson College in North Carolina before working as an editorial writer for The Greensboro Record and The Virginian-Pilot and editorial page editor at The Daily Press. He also wrote nationally syndicated columns for The Detroit News and USA Today. For seven years, he served as host of "FOX News Sunday" television show, and later had "The Tony Snow Show" on FOX News Radio.

In April 2006, he became press secretary for President George W. Bush, but his service was interrupted by the recurrence of colon cancer, and he retired in September to concentrate on fighting the disease.

The Kenyan-born Vassanji, 57, emigrated to Canada in 1978 after studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in theoretical nuclear physics.

While working as a research fellow at the University of Toronto, he became enamored with writing, and co-founded what is now called "The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad." In 1989 he published his acclaimed first novel, "The Gunny Sack." He has since published two collections of short stories and five more novels, including his most recent, "The Assassin's Song." His works have earned him two Scotiabank Giller Prizes, The Order of Canada, and the Commonwealth First Book Prize, among others.

Honorary degrees will be awarded during the morning ceremony to:

Conrad M. Hall (Doctor of Humane Letters) Hall serves as president and chief executive officer of Dominion Enterprises, a Landmark Communications-owned company that provides media and information services to the employment, automotive, real estate, marine, recreation and industrial markets. A native of Norfolk, he joined Landmark Communications Inc. in 1970 and has since served in a variety of business operations and financial positions before moving into his current role.

Thelma Harrison (Doctor of Humane Letters) Harrison has been an active participant in the civil rights movement her entire life. Born in Norfolk, she attended the segregated J.J. Smallwood Elementary School, which was once located on the present Old Dominion University campus. She later moved to New York City where she was a nurse at Lenox Hill Hospital, and she worked with U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. for 30 years in the area of voter registration. Today, she continues to work in her community, including registering voters in her neighborhood.

Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., U.S. Navy, Ret. (Doctor of Science) Giambastiani is a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's second-highest ranking military officer. During a 37-year naval career, Giambastiani was the first director of strategy and concepts at the Doctrine Command and led several submarine and anti-submarine commands. In these roles, he supported the creation of an Old Dominion University master's degree devised specifically for Navy nuclear-qualified officers, to be delivered by asynchronous technologies above and below the ocean's surface.

Honorary degrees will be awarded during the afternoon ceremony to:

Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, U.S. Army (Doctor of Science) Griffin, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command headquartered at Fort Belvoir, graduated from Old Dominion University in 1969 with a bachelor of science degree in business management. As commanding general, Griffin directs a workforce of 50,000 military and civilian employees, located in 45 states and 38 countries, whose missions range from the development of sophisticated weapons systems and research to the maintenance and distribution of spare parts worldwide. Prior to his current assignment, he was the Army's deputy chief of staff.

George C. Crawley (Doctor of Humane Letters) Crawley has dedicated his life to serving the city of Norfolk, and was eventually promoted to assistant city manager in 1982, a post he would hold for 14 years. After retiring, Crawley returned to public service in 1997 as assistant executive director for community building with Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Active in the community, Crawley is the founder, president and chairman of the board of The 200+ Men Inc., a regional organization of African American men who work to improve access to opportunities in education, economic development and community betterment.

M.G. Vassanji (Doctor of Humane Letters) Vassanji, a nuclear physicist turned writer, grew up in Kenya and Tanzania. He is a co-founder of a literary magazine, The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad, and in 1989 published his first novel, "The Gunny Sack." He has gone on to write six more novels and two collections of short stories. His most recent novel, "The Assassin's Song," was a finalist for both the Giller Prize and the Governor-General's Literary Awards for best novel in Canada.

This article was posted on: December 4, 2007

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