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Communications and Marketing

Diana Nyad announced as 2015 commencement speaker

Diana Nyad ’73, a celebrated American author, journalist, motivational speaker, and long-distance swimmer, will deliver this year’s graduation address at the College’s 137th Commencement on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at Ravinia Festival Park in Highland Park.

Additional honorary degree recipients will be Steve Chapman, a nationally syndicated columnist, and Tamara Smith ’80, CEO of the YWCA National Capital Area in Washington D.C.

A year and a half ago, at the age of 64, Nyad successfully fulfilled her lifelong dream of completing the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida on September 2, 2013. Upon finishing this grueling 53-hour swim, a breathless Nyad told the world, “I have three messages. One is we should never ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. And three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

A Florida prep-school swim champion when she arrived on the Lake Forest College campus, Nyad competed in the sport and also played on an unbeaten varsity tennis team, while double-majoring in French and English. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and, as the outstanding senior woman, was class speaker at her Commencement. She is a member of the Forester Athletic Hall of Fame.

Nyad was recognized in the 1970s as the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world. Her world records, such as circling Manhattan Island and crossing the 102.5 miles between the Bahamas and Florida, have led to her inductions into multiple halls of fame, including the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. 

Nyad became a prominent sports broadcaster, filing compelling reports for NPR, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, Fox Sports, and The New York Times. She has written three books and speaks French and Spanish fluently. Nyad has also earned the reputation of a uniquely passionate and entertaining public speaker, earning standing ovations with a broad spectrum of audiences. She is currently penning her memoir, to be released this fall, and she recently debuted the one-woman show, Onward! The Diana Nyad Story, in Los Angeles and Key West.

Steve ChapmanSteve ChapmanSteve Chapman writes a twice-weekly column on national affairs that is syndicated in some 50 newspapers across the country. He also writes editorials on legal issues, economics, and foreign relations, and a blog that appears on the Chicago Tribune website. A Texas native, Chapman graduated with honors from Harvard University, where he was on the staff of The Harvard Crimson. He has been a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and has served on the Visiting Committee of the University of Chicago Law School.  

Tamara Smith was appointed CEO of the YWCA of the National Capital Area, Washington D.C., in 2008. She previously served as President of D.C. Healthcare Systems, Inc., a major health maintenance organization in the Washington region. Tamara SmithTamara Smith
 In that role she was called to investigate a health plan member who tragically killed her four children. Wanting to reduce the future likelihood of another such event, Smith decided to become part of the solution and accepted the position of YWCA CEO. At the YWCA, she works directly on services for young women from broken homes. A biology major at Lake Forest, Smith served for six years on the College’s Board of Trustees from 2006 through 2012, and previously on the College’s Alumni Board. She also has served in leadership, volunteer, or advisory roles for numerous nonprofit organizations including Whitman Walker Clinic, Providence Health Foundation, D.C. Primary Care Association, Hoop Dreams, Medicaid Health Plans of America, D.C. HMO Association, Americas Health Insurance Plans: Minority Management Development Committee, National Association of Health Service Executives, and the Healthy Families D.C. Advisory Board.

These three remarkable individuals will be presented honorary degrees during the May 9 commencement ceremonies upon confirmation by the College’s Board of Trustees.