2007 Commencement

May 01, 2007

The Reverend Gloria White-Hammond, M.D. will give Wheelock’s 119th Commencement Address on Friday, May 18 at 11 a.m. In addition to White-Hammond, Wheelock will confer the honorary degree Doctor of Education upon Hildred Simons ‘75MS and Hanley Denning ‘96MS (posthumously).

White-Hammond, has touched the lives of millions of people by bringing hope to the hopeless.

Affectively called “the healer,” White-Hammond has been a pediatrician at Boston’s South End Health Center for 23 years. As co-pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, she has launched pre-marital and marriage counseling services; a church-based creative writing/mentoring ministry called “Do the Write Thing” for high-risk adolescent girls, a project which began with four girls and now serves more than 550 young women annually. White-Hammond is also a co-convener of the Red Tent Group of Temple Israel, which brings together Christian and Jewish women for small group Torah/Bible study.

While aiding hundreds locally, White-Hammond found time to expand her humanitarian efforts to the global community. In 2001, she traveled to Sudan to help redeem more than 2,000 women and girls taken as slaves during that country’s civil war. The stories she heard there—of beatings, killings, and almost unimaginable sexual abuse—sickened her. In 2004, her efforts resulted in diesel-powered mills to relieve the women’s traditional, all-day task of grinding grain—and to support a new school for girls, called My Sister’s Keeper School. Her next stop: bloody Darfur in western Sudan, to learn what women there need.

“I used to wonder, ‘What were my [enslaved] ancestors thinking?’ she told a reporter from the Providence Journal…“They were thinking that if they could hold on, maybe there would be somebody like me who would have degrees from wonderful institutions of learning, who would have titles and live in a nice house and see her responsibility to do everything she could to see that such things don’t happen again.”

Wheelock will confer the honorary degree Doctor of Education upon Hildred Simons ‘75MS and Hanley Denning ‘96MS (posthumously).

As a child Simons knew she had a passion to help others. She just couldn’t decide which career to pursue – teaching or nursing.

“I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher but you were required, in those days, to know how to play the piano. I am not good with the piano,” Simons said.

But after several years as a nurse at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Simons was led back to teaching with an offer to direct and teach at the John Winthrop School in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. The John Winthrop School, which is located in the First and Second Unitarian Universalist Church, was established in 1965 in response to the community’s need for a nursery school. Over a 34 year period, Simons built the school from a single morning nursery school class to a school serving about 75 children. From its inception, John Winthrop Nursery School sought to achieve both racial and economic diversity amongst its student body. Both concepts were atypical of the time. During these years of challenge and change Simons was a pioneer – practicing the belief that schools and parents are partners in child development.

“All of my teachers made home visits. They needed to meet the parents and see what the children had. Were there toys and books in the home? This all impacts how a child should be taught and how they will learn.”

Simons knew that the John Winthrop emphasis on a child-centered program would fit perfectly with Wheelock graduates and, as a result, it has been the training site for many student teachers from Wheelock. In addition to her stalwart leadership of the school over the years, she was also the primary force behind the creation of the Clarendon Street Playground, at the corner of Marlborough Street and Clarendon Street that is open to all local schools and neighborhood families alike.

Hanley Denning dedicated her life to hundreds of families living and working in the Guatemala City Dump. Where many saw impossible tragedy, Denning – who is often referred to as.

inspire a world of good

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