Double the wisdom at the 150th and 151st commencement ceremony.

The 150th annual commencement ceremony, originally scheduled for May of last year, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. 

Because of this, the class of 2020 will be honored at a commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 15, 2021, while the commencement ceremony for the class of 2021 will take place on Sunday, May 16, 2021. 

This year, the College will have two commencement speakers to honor both classes. 

The speakers are Mario Capecchi, a molecular geneticist and co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Gwendolyn Sykes, the CFO of the United States Secret Service. 

Capecchi will address the 2020 graduating class while Sykes will address the 2021 graduating class. 

Capecchi is an Italian molecular geneticist, who shared the Nobel Prize in 2007 with two other scientists for discovering a method of deactivating specific genes in mice. 

This method, proven to be a more reliable technique of altering animal genomes, is currently used in gene targeting and has contributed to the development of new treatments for diseases in humans, including cancer and diabetes.

Photo of Mario Capecchi, provided by

He is the son of Italian air force officer, Luciano Capecchi, and American poet, Lucy Ramberg. 

When World War II began, Capecchi and his mother were living in the Italian Alps 

Sadly, his mother was arrested due to her anti-fascist activities and was sent to Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp.

Ramberg, expecting to be arrested, had already paid friends to let Capecchi live with them. 

However, when the money ran out, they kicked him out of the house at age 4, where he was forced to live in the streets with other homeless children, and occasionally in orphanages, for five years. 

He ended up spending a year in a hospital, nearly dying of malnutrition.

After his mother was released from Dachau, she spent two years searching for him in Italy. She eventually found him at the hospital and moved them to the United States, settling in a utopian commune in Pennsylvania, co-founded by Ramberg’s brother, physicist Edward Ramberg, and his wife, Sarah. 

With the help of his uncle, he graduated from George School, a Quaker boarding school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1956, and received his Bachelor of Science in chemistry and physics in 1961 from Antioch College in Ohio.

Sykes is the United States Secret Service CFO. 

Photo of Gwendolyn Sykes, provided by NASA

Holding a Bachelor of Arts in accounting and a Masters of Public Administration, Sykes is responsible for the execution, development and stewardship of the Secret Service’s resources 

Currently, she also manages a financial team that includes budget, financial management, relocation and financial systems experts.

Sykes made history when she became the first African American woman to have serve as the CFO at NASA 

She also was nominated by the President of the United States, and confirmed by the United States Senate, to be responsible for the agency’s $16 billion financial management and health. 

She has also led more than 500 finance professionals, located across ten geographically dispersed locations throughout the United States, to develop and execute financial policies, processes and procedures while also serving as Yale University’s CFO. 

Additionally, Sykes gathered Previous government experience by working within the Department of Defense and in the office of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.

Read the full press release here

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