Springfield businessman and philanthropist Fred R. Leventhal, award-winning author Mark Mathabane, reproductive health specialist Kathryn Schmeding and international human resources development expert Robert W. Schmeding will join East Asian scholar Anthony Yu in receiving honorary degrees during Wittenberg’s 161 st Commencement exercises, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13.
A longtime leader in the Springfield community, Fred R. Leventhal took a small, family-owned broom manufacturing company, Vining Industries, now O-Cedar/Vining, and turned it into the largest manufacturer of brooms, mops and brushes in the United States with six plants in Springfield. Recognized in 1989 by the National Conference of Christians and Jews Inc. for “a life of good works and compassion that offers an exemplary model for all who would dedicate themselves to the service of others,” Leventhal has consistently demonstrated his commitment to Springfield and Wittenberg University. In addition to serving on numerous boards for local organizations and holding leadership roles in several successful fund-raising campaigns, Leventhal served on the Wittenberg Board of Directors from 1984-1996, receiving director emeritus status in 1996.
In 1987, Wittenberg awarded him honorary alumnus status for his years of service to the institution. Both he and his wife Maxine, also a 1987 honorary alumna of Wittenberg, established the Fred R. Leventhal Family Endowed Lecture Fund at the university, which began in 1983. The lecture series aims to help sustain the “long history of mutual support between town and campus,” and annually features award-winning authors, editors, journalists and reporters, among other esteemed professionals. Leventhal will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the ceremony.
The beneficiary of an illiterate mother who believed that education was the only way out of the ghetto, Mathabane learned to love learning as he came of age under apartheid in South Africa. The author of The New York Times’ bestselling autobiography Kaffir Boy , which has been translated into several languages and is currently used in classrooms throughout the United States, Mathabane has written several other books c elebrating the power of knowledge, the world’s common humanity and the resiliency of the human spirit.
Mathabane has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today, CNN, NPR, The Charlie Rose Show, Larry King, and numerous other TV and radio programs across the country. His provocative articles have also appeared in The New York Times, Newsday , U.S. News & World Report and USA Today . In addition, he has been featured in Time, Newsweek and People magazines. A sought-after lecturer, he was nominated for Speaker of the Year by the National Association for Campus Activities. Mathabane received his degree in economics from Dowling College with post-graduate study at the Poynter Media Institute and the School of Journalism at Columbia University. He will present the keynote address at the ceremony and receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
A world-renowned reproductive health specialist, Kathryn Schmeding, an alumna of the Wittenberg class of 1955, has trained more than 250 family planning providers in Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana and the Philippines to diagnose and manage sexually transmitted diseases. As a Fulbright professor for the University of Yaounde, Schmeding also lectured graduate students in French and English on microbiology, taught seminars in scientific writing, and directed graduate student research and thesis preparation.
In addition, Schmeding has served as a consultant for Bogor Agricultural University in Indonesia, the International Allied Medical Association, Andalas University, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and was a research microbiologist for the American Type Culture Collection. Schmeding received her B.A. in chemistry from Wittenberg, her M.S. and Ph.D in at The George Washington University. She will receive an honorary doctorate of science.
Also an alumnus of Wittenberg, Robert W. Schmeding, class of 1953, has dedicated his life to helping mankind. An expert in international human resources development, Schmeding has served as the director of education and human resources for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Yemen, Cameroon and Indonesia. In each region, Schmeding successfully employed research methodologies in numerous projects, managed multi-million dollar budgets, and facilitated training programs in higher agricultural education, family planning and language development, among other areas.
Schmeding has also served as the senior program analyst for human services with the Center for Development Information and Evaluation, Policy Directorate with AID, Department of State, in Washington, D.C. In addition, he has had long-term assignments in Nigeria and East Pakistan as well as consulting assignments in Asia, Latin America and Africa, among other regions. The joint editor of The Education in East Pakistan Research Project with the Institute of Education and Research, and a former pastor, Schmeding received his B.A. from Wittenberg, his B.Div from Hamma Divinity School and his Ph.D. in education from Ohio University. He will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
Currently the Carl Buck Darling Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities at The University of Chicago, Anthony Yu has consistently mentored, encouraged and challenged students throughout his nearly 40-year academic career. A leading authority on East Asia, Yu also holds appointments in five different programs at Chicago, including the Divinity School, East Asian Languages and Civilization, the Committee on Social Thought, English and Comparative Literature.
Widely published, Yu wrote the definitive translation and annotation of the 100-chapter Chinese novel Journey to the West, which has allowed readers of English to enjoy one of China’s most beloved works. In addition, Yu serves as editor on a variety of journals and is a member of numerous professional organizations, including chair of the selection committee for the Mellon Fellowships. He received his A.B. from Houghton College, his S.T.B. from Fuller Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. from The University of Chicago. Yu will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
- Karen Gerboth
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