Press Release

Chelsea Roberts
Media Strategist
Marketing and Communications
610-606-4666 ext. 3620

For Immediate Release
Contact: David Jwanier, media relations associate, 610-740-3790

Cedar Crest College to Hold Commencement Exercises on May 14

Allentown, Pa. (May 9, 2011)—The program for Cedar Crest College’s 141st commencement exercises on Saturday, May 14, features a commencement speaker with a strong track record of building and guiding technology companies, and honorary doctorate awardees who exemplify the College’s mission to develop future women leaders, including the co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and the co-founder of Lutron Electronics.

Commencement speaker is Deborah Millar Besemer, a 1976 Cedar Crest College graduate. Besemer was most recently the CEO of Gemvara, an online customized jewelry store, and currently serves on its board of directors. Previously she was the president and CEO of BrassRing, a leading provider of talent management solutions. Under her leadership, revenues grew from $1 million in revenue to $40 million until she oversaw the sale of the company to Kenexa Corp. for $115 million. Prior to joining BrassRing, Besemer was president of Systemsoft Corporation and spent more than a decade at Lotus Development, where she managed worldwide field operations with revenues in excess of $1.3 billion and more than 4,000 employees in 46 countries.

She is a former chairperson of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and served on the board of trustees for nine years. She served on the University of Massachusetts High Tech Executive Council, and The New England Small Business Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. She currently serves on the board of directors at Brightcove and Double-Take Software. Formerly, she served as board director at Bullhorn, My Perfect Gig, Kubisoft, Inc. and Eprise Corporation.

Besemer is also a member of CommonAngels, a group of 50 leading private investors and three dozen limited partners who have founded, co-founded or run high-tech companies.

She earned her bachelor of arts degree in French from Cedar Crest College and her M.B.A. in finance from Rutgers University. While at Cedar Crest, she served on the judicial board and the yearbook committee, and studied abroad in Grenoble.

She and husband, John, have two sons.

The College is issuing honorary doctorate degrees to Marie C. Wilson and Ruth Spira.

An advocate of women’s issues for more than 30 years, Marie C. Wilson is founder and president of The White House Project, co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World. In 1998, while president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, she founded The White House Project in recognition of the need to build a truly representative democracy—one where women lead alongside men in all spheres. In honor of her work, the Ms. Foundation created The Marie C. Wilson Leadership Fund, which is under her sole advisement.

Additional accomplishments run the gamut from becoming the first woman elected to the Des Moines City Council as a member-at-large in 1983, to co-authoring the critically acclaimed Mother Daughter Revolution, to serving as an official government delegate to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995. And in 2000, in conjunction with Mattel, Wilson brought the world President Barbie.

Born and raised in Georgia, Wilson has five children and four grandchildren. She resides in New York City.

Spira is the executive vice president and co-founder, with her husband Joel, of Lutron Electronics, a privately held corporation based in Coopersburg, Pa., that designs, manufactures, and sells lighting control systems and a variety of other related products. She is also co-founder and president of Subarashii Kudamona, a company that produces and markets new patented varieties of Asian pears. She is author of the Naturally Chinese cookbook, published in 1974.

Spira holds a B.A. in botany from Wellesley College and served as a member of the Cedar Crest College Board of Trustees from 2003-2010.

Cedar Crest College Commencement for approximately 430 graduates begins at 11 a.m. on the quad under a tent, and includes students from the traditional women’s college, as well as men and women from the School of Adult and Graduate Education.


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Last Updated: 10/3/11