Jane Lubchenco—Class of 2012 Commencement Speaker

May 2, 2012

NOAA head aims to bridge the gap between science and society

Class of 2012 Commencement Ceremony is 2 p.m. Sunday, May 13

TACOMA, Wash. – Jane Lubchenco, a distinguished scientist whose federal role has put her at the center of critical debates involving leaders in the environment, industry, and public policy, will deliver the Class of 2012 Commencement address at University of Puget Sound.

The first marine ecologist and first woman to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Lubchenco has earned a high profile for championing the concept of a “social contract” between scientists and society. She makes the case that scientists, not just public officials, must take responsibility for informing the public about how the earth is changing and the effect policy options may have on the lives of citizens.

“Dr. Lubchenco is a quintessential scientist of the 21st century,” Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas said. “She is a brilliant researcher who pursues the truth with passion, an expansive thinker who distills her science into political and economic policy with convincing clarity, and an empathetic human being focused on channeling her talents toward the service of humanity.”    

Thomas will present Lubchenco with an honorary Doctor of Science degree in recognition of her exemplary work in promoting scientific study and environmental awareness, and in pursuing collaborations and solutions essential to the nation’s well-being. The University of Puget Sound 2012 Commencement Ceremony will be held 2–4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 13, at Baker Stadium on campus.    

In March 2009 Lubchenco was sworn in as undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and the administrator of NOAA, the nation’s top science agency for climate, oceans, and atmosphere. A global researcher of marine ecosystems, she has expertise in oceans, climate change, and interactions between people and the environment.

Named Nature magazine’s 2010 Newsmaker of the Year, Lubchenco has pursued excellence in science in many leading national and international roles, including as a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Yet her desire to see cohesive action to secure the future of this and succeeding generations also has led her on the less-traveled road of seeking reconciliation between faith and science.

At NOAA she has successfully guided efforts to deal with the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, overseen the launch of a new environmental satellite program that gives early warning of severe weather conditions, and she made policy that is ending overfishing and recovering depleted fish stocks off America’s coastlines.

Last year NOAA made headlines by revealing that in 2011 weather-related disasters each costing the nation $1 billion or more—including floods, droughts, and hurricanes—reached 14, the highest number for a single year in recorded history. While a single year does not establish a trend, the report alerted the public to the warnings Lubchenco’s office has repeatedly issued on the urgency of addressing climate change and preparing to adapt to changes already underway.

“What happens in the Arctic, doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” Lubchenco said in an October 2011 media interview about the melting Arctic ice cap. “It has huge implications for the global system. We’ve never experienced the kinds of changes that we’re seeing now in the Arctic and elsewhere. And we don’t fully understand what the consequences of those are going to be.”

In the course of a vibrant scientific career, Lubchenco has become one of the most frequently cited ecologists in the world. A native of Colorado, she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Colorado College, a master’s degree in zoology at University of Washington, and a doctorate in ecology at Harvard University.

Lubchenco is a former president of the International Council for Science and the Ecological Society of America, and served for 10 years on the board of the National Science Foundation. She is an elected member of six national and international academies of arts and science, as well as of the American Philosophical Society. In addition, she has co-founded three organizations that communicate scientific knowledge to the public, policy makers, the media, and industry.

Lubchenco’s numerous awards include a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, 12 honorary degrees, the 2002 Heinz Award in the Environment, the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, the 2008 Zayed International Prize for the Environment, and, most recently, the 2011 Blue Planet Prize.

The NOAA administrator was selected as Commencement Speaker from an impressive list of nominees by a committee of students, faculty, alumni, and trustees.

For more about the Commencement Ceremony visit: www.pugetsound.edu/commencement
For directions and a map of the campus: www.pugetsound.edu/directions.xml

Photos on page: Top right: Jane Lubchenco; Above left: Jane Lubchenco on board the NOAA ship Pisces (Photo: Wayne Hoggard, NOAA) Above right: A weather picture from a NOAA environmental satellite. Photos courtesy of NOAA.

Photos of Jane Lubchenco can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos

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