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HEAD OF UN POPULATION FUND THORAYA AHMED OBAID TO SPEAK AT MILLS COLLEGE'S 119TH COMMENCEMENT ON SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2007

Roselyne “Cissie” Swig to Receive Honorary Degree

Oakland, CA - Thoraya Ahmed Obaid (Mills Class of ‘66), executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), will be the Commencement speaker at Mills College on Saturday, May 12, 2007.  During the ceremony, an honorary doctor of humane letters will be conferred upon Roselyne “Cissie” Swig, an invaluable member of the Mills College Board of Trustees for nearly 20 years throughout six terms since 1987. She is currently the founder and president of ComCon International, a community consulting company.

Mills’ graduating class includes 249 undergraduate women and 305 graduate women and men. The College’s 119th graduation begins at 9:45 am on the campus’ Toyon Meadow.

“In a world of vast inequities between the rich and poor, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid is an international leader with a compelling mission to help governments worldwide establish programs empowering women,” said Mills President Janet L. Holmgren. 

When international women’s rights advocate Thoraya Ahmed Obaid received an honorary doctor of laws at Mills’ commencement in 2002, she was described on the degree as a woman who “committed mind and heart to her life’s work, reminding us all that we must help our sisters and neighbors in poorer countries …because their future is in our hands, and ours in theirs.”

A devoted global public servant named by Forbes magazine in 2004 as one of the world’s “50 most powerful Arab women,” Obaid was deeply influenced by Saudi parents who believed that educating daughters opens doors to a meaningful life. Entering Mills in 1963, she became the first Saudi Arabian woman to receive a government scholarship to study at a U.S. university, and an internship experience while at Mills sparked her lifelong interest in population issues. She went on to earn her PhD in English and cultural anthropology at Wayne State University.

In 1975, Obaid worked for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), and established the first women’s development program in Western Asia. In 2001, following 25 distinguished years with ESCWA and the UNFPA—the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance—Obaid was named executive director of UNFPA with the rank of under-secretary-general. She became the first Saudi Arabian national to head a UN agency.

President Holmgren noted Cissie Swig’s major contributions to society, “Mills is proud to honor Cissie Swig, a preeminent humanitarian who believes in advancing society through devoted civic leadership and generosity of spirit. Her service on behalf of women’s rights, higher education, the arts, and social justice provides an exemplary model for all who wish to make a difference to humankind.”

A successful businesswoman, activist, and philanthropist, Swig has been a vital influence on numerous organizations including Partners Ending Domestic Abuse, Women’s Forum West, Vital Voices Global Partnership, and the Jewish Community Federation, as well as cultural institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum. By mayoral appointment, she is a past president of the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Library Commission.

Mills College is a nationally renowned, independent liberal arts college offering innovative degree programs for undergraduate women, and graduate degree and certificate programs for women and men. Consistently recognized as one of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Mills currently ranks among the top 20 most diverse liberal arts colleges. The New York Times recently selected Mills as one of three leading California colleges for students to consider.

In 2006, the Washington Monthly College Rankings named Mills a leading liberal arts college based on community service, research spending, quality of preparation for graduate education, and social mobility. In addition, The Princeton Review’s annual guide, the Best 361 Colleges (2007) included Mills for the second year in a row among top U.S. institutions offering students an outstanding undergraduate education.

Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, California on 135 lush acres, Mills provides a dynamic liberal arts education fostering women’s leadership, social responsibility, and creativity.

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Deborah Dallinger
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Last Updated: 6/6/07