Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, author and conservation policy expert will deliver the 2023 Middlebury commencement address.
Johnson is the co-founder of the nonprofit think tank Urban Ocean Lab, co-editor of the bestselling climate anthology “All We Can Save,” co-author of the “Blue New Deal,” and co-creator of the podcast “How to Save a Planet.”
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Johnson earned a BA from Harvard University and a PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in marine biology. In 2021, she was named one of the Time 100 Next List of “emerging leaders who are shaping the future.”
“Ayana [Johnson] personifies the climate movement at its best — a first-rate scientist who also understands that, by itself, science can't solve our crisis,” said Bill McKibben, Middlebury’s Schumann Distinguished Scholar, in an announcement from the Office of the President.
“She’s employed every possible tool—writing, speaking, building institutions, helping organize political power—in order to make a resounding difference. If ever a person exemplified why the liberal arts — all of them — matter, it's Ayana [Johnson],” McKibben said.
Johnson will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree at the commencement ceremony.
Middlebury will also award honorary degrees to five other individuals at commencement. Mark Bamuthi Joseph is a spoken-word poet, dancer, playwright and actor, whose opera We Shall Not Be Moved,” was named one of 2017’s “Best Classical Music Performances” by The New York Times.
Nancy Gaden is senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Boston Medical Center (BMC), described as a “remarkable leader shaping healthcare in Massachusetts,” by The Commonwealth Institute.
The other three honorees — Thomas M. Wells, Carol Vitz Wells and Jordyn Wells — are cofounders of the Wells Mountain Initiative (WMI), a foundation focused on social change through education and community building based in Bristol, Vt.
Commencement will take place on May 28 at 10 a.m on the quad downhill from the chapel.
Lily Jones ’23 is an online editor and senior writer.
She previously served as a Senior News Writer and SGA Correspondent.
Jones is double majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. She also is an intern for the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs and on the ultimate frisbee team.