Brighton High School Graduate Announces Wellesley College's 2012 Commencement Speaker

Kate Leonard, a 2008 Brighton High School Graduate, is Wellesley College's Senior Class President

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Kate Leonard, of Brighton, NY, is Wellesley College's Senior Class President.

WELLESLEY, MA (04/11/2012)(readMedia)-- Kate Leonard of Brighton, NY, Senior Class President at Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA, had the honor of announcing Wellesley's 2012 commencement speaker. Unlike many other colleges and universities, the commencement speaker selection process at Wellesley College is driven by students. Leonard and her fellow seniors chose professor, political scientist, author, Nation columnist, MSNBC host, and rising "nerdland" icon Melissa Harris-Perry.

"We are all overjoyed to have such an accomplished and impressive speaker for our Commencement ceremony this year," Leonard said. "We greatly admire Melissa Harris-Perry's incorporation of intellectual discourse into popular media and the sharp wit she brings to political and cultural analysis. I look forward to hearing her thoughts on what lies ahead for the Class of 2012 and any wisdom she may offer this diverse group of talented, ambitious women."

Leonard graduated from Brighton High School in 2008. She will graduate from Wellesley College in May with a major in Cinema and Media Studies and a minor in Women's and Gender Studies; she plans to move to New York City to pursue a career in television production. Leonard is the daughter of Jennifer Leonard and David Cay Johnston of Brighton.

"Each year, Wellesley's graduating seniors, who are ready and eager to make their mark, express their sense of the times, engagement with the world, and openness to inspiration in the selection of their Commencement speaker," said H. Kim Bottomly, President of Wellesley College. "Wellesley's 2012 Seniors are making an important statement by inviting Melissa Harris-Perry to address the class. It's clear that they value the need to support and be supported by each other-smart, empowered women who are boldly, and thoughtfully, pioneering every platform. Melissa Harris-Perry is the kind of leader that Wellesley women admire, and we are honored and excited to welcome her to Wellesley."

Harris-Perry is host of MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," which premiered in February and airs Saturday and Sunday mornings. She is the first African-American woman to solo-host a news and politics show on a major TV news outlet. Harris-Perry is also the only tenured professor in the United States to host a cable news show. She is widely praised for bringing the stimulating, intellectual discourse of the academic world to popular audiences.

Harris-Perry is Professor of Political Science at Tulane University, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. She also is a columnist for The Nation magazine, where she writes a monthly column titled Sister Citizen, and an author. Her 2011 book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America (Yale), argues that persistent harmful stereotypes profoundly shape black women's politics, contribute to policies that treat them unfairly, and make it difficult for black women to assert their rights in the political arena. Harris-Perry has provided commentary on U.S. elections, gender concerns, racial issues, and religious questions for The Rachel Maddow Show, The Colbert Report, PBS, CNN, The Huffington Post, and many others.

Wellesley College's commencement exercises will take place on Friday, May 25, at 10:30 AM.

About Wellesley College

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from 50 states and more than 75 countries.