Fiona Hill to Deliver Commencement Address to the Class of 2024

Foreign affairs expert and author will speak at the May 19 ceremony

Fiona Hill, foreign intelligence advisor and author, will deliver the commencement address to the Tufts University Class of 2024 on Sunday, May 19.

Hill will speak at the Class of 2024 all-university ceremony, which will also be available via livestream on the Tufts Commencement website.

Hill is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Previously, she served in three different U.S. presidential administrations, both Democratic and Republican, providing expertise on Russian-American relations. 

Hill is a much sought-after commentator and expert on Russian affairs due to her extensive research on the region. She is the author of The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, and the memoir There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century.

Hill grew up working class in County Durham, United Kingdom, the daughter of a coal miner and a midwife. When the British mines began to close in the 1960s, her father found work as a porter at a hospital. Hill washed cars and waitressed to help contribute to the family.

When applying to university, she felt discriminated against for her class background. Hill says that, as a prospective student at Oxford University, she was mocked for her northern English accent and manner of dress. She attended the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where she earned a degree in Russian.

As a university student, she traveled to Russia on a transformative study abroad program. Her experience in the country during the final years of the Soviet Union underscored for Hill the similarities and differences between Western and Russian cultures. 

As a student intern at NBC News in Moscow, she witnessed the 1987 signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

Hill earned a master’s in Soviet studies and a Ph.D. in history at Harvard University. From 1991 to 1999, she held a variety of positions at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

She served on the National Intelligence Council as a national intelligence analyst of Russia and Eurasia from 2006 to 2009, and as senior director for Europe and Russia of the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019.

In June 2023, she was installed as chancellor of Durham University, a ceremonial position.

"We commend Dr. Hill for her longstanding commitment to public service," said Tufts University President Sunil Kumar. "We look forward to welcoming her to campus and honoring her alongside the extraordinary Class of 2024 and our other honorary degree recipients."

At commencement, which begins at 9 a.m. on the academic quad of Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus, Hill will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Three other distinguished individuals will receive honorary degrees:

Portrait of Kathryn Bostic

Composer and musician Kathryn Bostic is an Emmy nominee for her original music scores in “Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir” and “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.” She worked with playwright August Wilson for the Broadway production of Gem of the Ocean. Her collaborations with Morrison and Wilson inspired her to produce symphonic pieces on the writers’ works with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Bostic has toured extensively in festivals and venues worldwide, had her compositions performed by some of the world’s top orchestras, and been a guest artist at several prestigious institutions, including her alma mater, Tufts University. She has also recorded and performed with many artists including Nas, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and David Byrne. An advocate for music education, she continues to create scores for award-winning orchestras and film and TV productions, as well as upcoming recordings of her own original music and songs. In 2016 she became the first African American female score composer in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Bostic will receive an honorary Doctor of Music degree.

Portrait of Ms. Koloughlin

The first female executive director of the American Dental Association, Kathleen O’Loughlin was the first female class president and valedictorian of her class at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine when she graduated in 1981. She joined the ADA—the nation’s leading advocate for oral health—in 2009 after serving as the chief dental officer for United Health Group. O’Loughlin also served as president and CEO of Delta Dental of Massachusetts for six years. In addition, O’Loughlin maintained a private dental practice for over 20 years and served as assistant clinical professor at Tufts School of Dental Medicine. She served as a trustee at Tufts from 2006 to 2016 before being named trustee emerita, and currently serves on the boards of several companies and firms dedicated to advancing dental care technology and dental innovation. In addition to board service, she provides leadership development to nonprofit boards and executives. O’Loughlin will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Portrait of Dr. Ruskin

Pioneering cardiac physician Jeremy Ruskin is founder and director emeritus of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service and Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship Training Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. He attended Harvard Medical School after graduating from Tufts University in 1967. Ruskin founded the MGH Cardiac Arrhythmia Service and Clinical Electrophysiology Laboratory in 1978, the first subspecialty service dedicated to the care of patients with cardiac arrhythmias in New England and one of the first in the United States. Since its inception, the MGH Cardiac Arrhythmia Service has been a leader in cutting-edge clinical care, the training of future leaders in the field, and research on the mechanisms of and innovative therapies for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. During his 50-year career at MGH, Ruskin has been a prolific medical researcher—the author of more than 500 scientific publications—and a dedicated mentor to generations of cardiac leaders. Ruskin will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

School Ceremonies

As part of the School of Engineering’s commencement program, Reggie Brothers, E81, principal at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and operating partner at AE Industrial, will address bachelor’s degree graduates on Sunday, May 19. Arul Jayaraman, executive associate dean, College of Engineering, Texas A&M University, will address graduates of the School of Engineering’s graduate programs on Saturday, May 18.

Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank, will address graduates of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy as part of the commencement festivities on Sunday, May 19.

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