Wesleyan to Honor Annette Gordon-Reed, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Larry McHugh, and Donna S. Morea at 191st Commencement

James SimsFebruary 15, 202312min
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Annette Gordon-Reed, Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80, Larry McHugh, and Donna S. Morea ’76, P’06
From left: Annette Gordon-Reed, Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80, Larry McHugh, and Donna S. Morea ’76, P’06

President Michael S. Roth ’78 has announced that Wesleyan University will recognize four inspiring leaders during the 191st Commencement on Sunday, May 28, 2023.

The honorary degree recipients will be Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard, who will also deliver the Commencement address; Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80, award-winning author, transgender activist, and professor at Barnard College; Larry McHugh, recently retired president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and longstanding community leader; and Donna S. Morea ’76, P’06, an internationally recognized technology executive and Wesleyan University Board Chair Emerita.

“At a time when our country is once again at risk of fracturing under the pressures of willful ignorance and distrust of its institutions, we must take this moment to recognize the great value brought by those who have dedicated their lives to understanding America’s past, embracing otherness, and building coalitions of support through lifelong community service,” Roth said. “Annette Gordon Reed, Jennifer Boylan, Larry McHugh, and Donna Morea exemplify such dedication, and we look forward to honoring them at Commencement.”

Annette Gordon-Reed is a writer, speaker, and teacher who has combined her expertise in history and the law to advance the national conversation on race in powerful ways. Gordon-Reed has won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009 and the National Book Award in 2008, for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. In addition to articles and reviews, her other works include Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, Vernon Can Read! A Memoir, a collaboration with Vernon Jordan, Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History, a volume of essays that she edited, Andrew Johnson and, with Peter S. Onuf, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination. Her most recent book is On Juneteenth.

Gordon-Reed was the Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford (Queens College) 2014-2015. Between 2010 and 2015, she was the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She was the 2018-2019 President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic and is the current President of the Ames Foundation. Her many honors include a fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, the George Washington Book Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

Gordon-Reed served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College from 2010 to 2018. She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and was a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2019, she was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. She is currently president of the Society of American Historians.

Gordon-Reed graduated Dartmouth College with high distinction as a history major before attending Harvard Law School (JD), where she served as a member of the Harvard Law Review.

Jennifer Finney Boylan is a writer, teacher, and activist who has fused her experience as a transgender person with her extraordinary talents as author and desire to better society. She is the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer-in-Residence and Professor of English at Barnard College of Columbia University and is currently a Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study. Boylan is the author of 18 books, including the novel Long Black Veil and the memoir Good Boy: My Life in 7 Dogs. She wrote the forewords to Trans Bodies, Trans Selves as well as The New York Times Essential Book of Cocktails. Her latest book, Mad Honey, is a novel co-authored with Jodi Picoult.

Her 2003 memoir, She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders was the first bestselling work by a transgender American. Boylan is also a nationally known advocate for human rights, appearing on such programs as the Oprah Winfrey Show, Live with Larry King, the Today Show, the Barbara Walters Special, NPR’s Marketplace, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She has also been the subject of documentaries on CBS News’ 48 Hours and The History Channel and served as an advisor to the television series Transparent.

For many years Boylan was a contributing opinion writer for the opinion page of The New York Times and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. She is a member of the board of Trustees of PEN America, and from 2011-2018 was a member of the board of directors of GLAAD, serving as the first openly transgender co-chair from 2013-2017. She is a member of the faculty of the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference of Middlebury College and the Sirenland Writers’ Conference in Positano, Italy.

Boylan graduated Wesleyan University with a BA in English and holds a MA from John Hopkins University. While at Wesleyan, she was editor of The Wesleyan Argus and a member of WESU radio station’s board of directors.

Larry McHugh served as president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce in Connecticut for 39 years before retiring last year. Middletown and Wesleyan have benefitted enormously from his efforts with the Chamber and his work with state and city government in support of higher education. McHugh first joined the Chamber in 1983 and served as the organization’s top executive responsible for all aspects of the Chamber including member outreach and support, operations, and financial performance for the Chamber’s nearly 2,000 members throughout greater Middlesex County.

During McHugh’s tenure at the Chamber of Commerce, he expanded membership by nearly 700 percent and helped expand the local business community, which now includes corporations like Pratt & Whitney and Federal Express. He was instrumental in establishing partnerships between the chamber and nonprofit organizations throughout the county. He is also credited with helping in the revitalization of Middletown’s downtown area. And through ongoing partnership with Wesleyan, McHugh supported student engagement opportunities including the University’s entrepreneurship program.

From 1963 to 1983 McHugh was a teacher and football coach at Xavier High School in Middletown. He has been involved with higher education since the early 1980s, when Governor William A. O’Neill nominated him to serve on the board of the Connecticut State University System and he served as Chairman from 1995-2008. In 2009 Governor Jodi Rell appointed McHugh Board Chairman of the University of Connecticut, a role in which he served until 2017. During his tenure, UConn’s major accomplishments included passage of historic investments leading to a large increase in student enrollment, appointment of the first female president in the university’s history, and dramatic increases in student academic quality and diversity.

McHugh is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University.

Donna S. Morea served as a Wesleyan Trustee from 2008 to 2020, during which time her service included chairing the Finance and University Relations Committees. In 2016 she was elected Chair of the Board, becoming the first woman chair in Wesleyan’s history. She received a Distinguished Alumna Award from Wesleyan in 2006.

Morea is an internationally recognized executive in the IT services and software communities. She is currently the CEO of Adesso Group, a private consulting and advisory firm, helping businesses develop growth strategies and improve operational performance. She also serves as an operating executive at The Carlyle Group, providing investment guidance to Carlyle professionals—from sourcing to acquisition—in the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Group and, as a board member, advising portfolio company executives on management, operations, and growth strategies.

In 2011, she retired from a successful 31-year career at American Management Systems (AMS) and CGI, one of the largest IT business and consulting firms in the world. As President of CGI Technologies and Solutions, she led CGI’s business in the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Her clients included some of the world’s most important and complex organizations in government, healthcare, financial services, and telecommunications.

Active in community service, Morea serves as a director of Share Our Strength, a global anti-hunger organization, and as a trustee of the Inova Health System, the largest health care provider in Northern Virginia. She is a chairman emeritus of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, serving more than 1,000 member companies.

Morea received a BA with high honors from Wesleyan University and an MBA with distinction from Wharton.

A list of past honorary degree recipients and Commencement speakers is available on our website.