Skating Champion Michelle Kwan to be Speaker at Commencement

April 9, 2010

Michelle Kwan, the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history (five World Championships, nine U.S. National titles, two Olympic medals), who is also an author and U.S. diplomatic envoy, will add doctor to her already impressive resume, when she receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Southern Vermont College’s 83rd Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 8. 

Kwan, a California native, will also address the graduating class as its commencement speaker. Named the nation’s first Public Diplomacy Envoy for the U.S. State Department in 2006, Kwan travels widely to speak with youth across the globe about America, its culture and values, and the life lessons learned through sports. She is currently a graduate student at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of International Affairs. 

For more than a decade, Kwan dominated the figure skating world, winning a record 43 titles. In the nearly 100-year history of U.S. figure skating, no American man or woman has won more world titles, national titles or Olympic medals. The author of two books, Michelle Kwan: Heart of a Champion (1997) and The Winning Attitude! (1999), Kwan’s undergraduate education and degree at the University of Denver (2008) focused on international studies, a topic she continues in her graduate work. In her current role as a Public Diplomacy Envoy, she travels throughout the world to meet and speak with young people about leadership and to engage them in dialogue on social and educational issues.

“I am honored to be invited to attend and participate in Commencement Exercises at Southern Vermont College,” said Kwan. “Education has and always will be a very important part of my life. I look forward to speaking to the graduating class, sharing some of my life experiences with them and congratulating them for their own academic accomplishments and success.” 

“I am delighted that Michelle will address our graduates and receive an Honorary Degree,” said SVC President Karen Gross. “She is the embodiment of someone who has worked hard to pursue a dream, someone who is not afraid to fall down, get back up, and strive for excellence at each and every turn. Her personal story is compelling and inspiring for our graduates, as they enter the next chapter in their lives.” 

Kwan has earned numerous awards and honors including: the 2007 Billie Jean King Contribution Award and 1998 Sportswoman of the Year Award from the Women’s Sports Foundation; 2003 U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) Sportswoman of the Year; the prestigious 2001 Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in America; 2002 and 2003 Kids’ Choice Award and the 2002 Teen Choice Award as America’s favorite female athlete. She has worked at both the state and national level to encourage physical fitness among youth. 

Michelle Kwan follows recent SVC Commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients author Andre Dubus III, who wrote the novel turned film, House of Sand and Fog; Awarding winning journalist Christine Dugas; now at USA Today; and ESPN sports commentator Sean McDonough.