Melissa Harris-Perry has officially been named speaker for the 51st Commencement of Eckerd College May 18. Harris-Perry is the host of the MSNBC weekend show “Melissa Harris-Perry,” author of “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America” and a professor of political science at Tulane University.
“In an era characterized by impoverished political discourse, Dr. Perry, through her show, has created a forum for probing many of the vexing political and social issues facing our nation,” President Donald Eastman said in an email.
Unlike many larger schools, Eckerd does not pay its commencement speakers. Instead, the college tries to bring individuals who are well respected in his or her field and who the faculty and trustees believe is deserving of accolades.
“I think what makes her a very attractive and timely speaker is the fact that she is not only well respected in academic circles as a (previous) member of faculty of political science at Princeton and an accomplished researcher and author,” Dean of Students James Annarelli said, “but also because she is a very public figure who is in ongoing conversation with key political figures, leaders of social movements, social commentators and critics and other members of the mass media.” Annarelli says Harris-Perry is the only candidate who was pursued seriously.
In addition to being a published author, professor, researcher and political talk-show host, Harris-Perry is the director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. According to their website, the New Orleans-based organization “investigates how gender and race intersect to shape women’s politics in the South.”
Senior Christina Smith is Harris-Perry’s niece and a strong proponent of her aunt’s work. “I have been looking forward to graduation for a while now and having my aunt as the commencement speaker heightens my excitement,” she said. “I am really proud and I know that she is honored to be welcomed here at Eckerd.”
Harris-Perry, who currently resides in New Orleans, received her B.A. in English from Wake Forest University and her Ph.D. in political science from Duke University.