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Van Ness to address Wilson grads

May 06, 2009

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Wilson College alumna Gretchen Van Ness, a noted Boston attorney who has argued precedent-setting cases at the state and federal levels, will address the graduating class at Wilson College's 139th commencement ceremony, to be held Sunday, May 17.

Van Ness, who graduated in 1980, played a key role in the successful effort to reverse a decision to close Wilson College 30 years ago. In 1979, as president of Wilson College Government Association, she led students in the "Save Wilson" effort and was the plaintiff representing the junior class in a lawsuit that reversed the Wilson Board of Trustees' decision to close the college at that time.

As a result, Wilson emerged as a stronger institution that today offers undergraduate and master's degree programs to traditional-age women, as well as adult men and women, through its adult degree program.

Approximately 95 students will receive bachelor's and associate degrees during Wilson's commencement ceremony, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. on the college's main green. (In case of rain, the ceremony will be held at Laird Hall.) In addition, the first nine graduates of Wilson's Master of Education program will receive their degrees and another 57 certificates will be granted to college graduates who are completing the teacher intern program at Wilson.

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In her commencement address, Van Ness will share reflections on the 30th anniversary of the "Save Wilson" effort, the importance of women's education and the urgent need for increased numbers of women leaders throughout the world.

"Gretchen Van Ness is an extraordinary person and professional -- the kind of alumna and trustee who exemplifies the best in a liberal arts graduate, and who continues to make Wilson proud," said Lorna Duphiney Edmundson, Wilson president.

Van Ness is a staff attorney with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. She spent more than a decade in private practice, representing clients in civil rights and discrimination matters. Van Ness has argued precedent-setting cases before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the state and federal appeals courts, and has lectured across the nation on issues such as constitutional challenges to Title IX and the disposition of frozen embryos upon divorce.

Van Ness has a juris doctor degree from Boston College School of Law, where she served as editor in chief of the Boston College Law Review. She has a bachelor of arts degree in English and history from Wilson College.

During the commencement ceremony, trustee emeriti status will be conferred on Elizabeth Fisher Eberts and Dr. Charles S. Tidball. Emeriti status is the highest honor that can be bestowed on former trustees and is reserved for those whose service has been extraordinary.

A baccalaureate service will be held at 10 a.m. in Alumnae Chapel at Thomson Hall.

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