Social activist Marian Wright Edelman will receive an honorary doctorate of letters and science degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She will receive the honorary degree and give the commencement address at the College of Communication and Information’s spring commencement at 8:30 a.m., Friday, May 8. This will be the ninth honorary degree awarded by UT Knoxville.
Edelman is the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization that tries to ensure a level playing field for all children. Since 1994, the organization has been headquartered at the Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee.
“Marian Wright Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Her groundbreaking work has created decades of positive change for society and improved the lives of generations of Americans,” Ed Cortez, director of the School of Information Sciences, wrote in his letter nominating Edelman for the honor.
Edelman began her career as director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and was the first woman elected to the Yale University Corporation. She served on the board of trustees for Spelman College, her alma mater. She has received more than 100 honorary degrees and many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Edelman serves on the board of directors of the Robin Hood Foundation and the Association to Benefit Children. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.