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Six Degrees of William Smith College

You’ve played six degrees of Kevin Bacon; now play Six Degrees of William Smith College!

Eleanor Roosevelt,
connected to William Smith
College in one step.

Name any public woman in the past 100 years, and we’ll link her back to William Smith College in six steps or less. Submit names below and check back to see how we’ve made the connection. Stump us and we’ll send you a William Smith gift!

Gloria Steinem
Easy! Gloria Steinem L.H.D. ’98 delivered the commencement address at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1998. She also presented the Elizabeth Blackwell Award to Wilma Mankiller in 1996.

Oprah Winfrey
Wanjira Mathai graduated from William Smith in 1994. Her brother Muta graduated from Hobart two years later. Their mother – African ecologist and activist Wangari Maathai – is the recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. She was also the Colleges’ 1996 commencement speaker and is a member of the William Smith Centennial Honorary Committee. Still following? Oprah Winfrey, along with Tom Cruise, co-hosted the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo. While there, Winfrey interviewed Maathai. The two have since become friends with Maathai visiting Winfrey in the United States and Winfrey supporting Maathai’s work in Africa.

Angelina Jolie
Richard Holbrooke, who delivered the 2000 Commencement address at Hobart and William Smith, is President and CEO of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. In his role as an HIV/AIDS activist, Holbrooke has worked closely with fellow activist, UN Goodwill Ambassador and Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie.

Eleanor Roosevelt
In 1947, Eleanor Roosevelt delivered the Hobart and William Smith baccalaureate address and received an honorary degree from the Colleges.

Emmeline Pankhurst
In October of 1909, radical English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst visited Geneva and gave a speech at the Smith Opera House. Elizabeth Smith Miller bought tickets for all of the students at William Smith College.

Diane Sawyer
Remember Rachael Ray—she featured Nina Rubin ’81 in an issue of her magazine, Everyday with Rachael Ray. In 2006, she and Diane Sawyer paired up to pen a 2006 article for the same magazine about the contents of Sawyer’s fridge! It doesn’t get much more public than that!

Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright offered remarks during the Hobart and William Smith Convocation ceremonies in 2001. At that time, the Colleges also awarded her with a Blackwell Award.

Katharine Hepburn
Submitted by Susan Lloyd Yolen '72
In 1901, Helen Hall Houghton married Professor of English and Hobart's Librarian and Registrar Charles Vail. In 1913, she purchased the house and grounds now known as Houghton House. Mrs. Vail was the widow of Charles F. Houghton, vice president of Corning Glass. It was through her marriage to Houghton that Mrs. Vail acquired her wealth and status as great-aunt to Katharine Houghton Hepburn. In 1934, Mrs. Vail's daughter, MaBelle Houghton Plumb, donated Houghton House to the Colleges. Learn more about the history of Houghton House. Learn about Hepburn's influence on Susan Lloyd Yolen '72.

Elizabeth Taylor
Submitted by Kathleen Cunningham ’99
A young Elizabeth Taylor starred with Irene Dunne in the 1947 classic film Life with Father. Dunne received an honorary degree from the Colleges in 1961.

Emma Goldman
Submitted by Dominic Moore ’05, Liz Dedrick ’02 and Sheri Friedberg ’00
We already know about the Katharine Houghton Hepburn connection. Hepburn's mother and Margaret Sanger worked together to help found the organization that became Planned Parenthood. Sanger was a frequent contributor to Mother Earth, the radical political journal published by Emma Goldman. Another interesting fact: during the mid-1980s, the Women's Collective was known as the Emma Goldman Society.

Shirley Chisholm
Submitted by Deborah Koeppel ’80
Remember Gloria Steinem L.H.D. ’98? She and Shirley Chisholm founded the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.

Paris Hilton
Submitted by Alec Thorton ’08 and Marc Fruehauf
Mark Neveldine’95 directed the 2007 medical thriller Pathology, which stars Milo Ventimiglia. Ventimiglia is most well-known for his portrayal of super-powered Peter Petrelli on the NBC sci-fi drama Heroes. Playing Peter’s niece on the hit show is actress Hayden Panettiere, who met friend Paris Hilton while filming the 2004 romantic comedy Raising Helen.

Barbara Ehrenreich
Submitted by Sheri Friedberg ’00
In 1998, feminist and psychologist Carol Gilligan advised Hobart and William Smith
during the founding of the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men. Gilligan and
fellow feminist writer Barbara Ehrenreich appeared on stage together as part of the
Women Center Stage festival talking about joy and pleasure.

Dakota Fanning
Submitted by Regina Triplett ’10
Chris MacDonald ’77 is well known around campus as Shooter McGavin, a role he played in the 1996 comedy starring Adam Sandler. Though he wasn’t in Happy Gilmore, Golden Globe nominee Steve Buscemi has appeared in several of Sandler’s movies, including Mr. Deeds, Big Daddy and the Wedding Singer. Buscemi also voiced the part of Templeton the rat in the 2006 Dakota Fanning vehicle, Charlotte’s Web.

Billie Jean King
Submitted by Angie Russell
In 1998, professional tennis legend Billie Jean King accepted a Blackwell award from Hobart and William Smith.

Julia Roberts
Submitted by Megan Scanlon ’05, Amanda Allen Siver ’06 and Deb Jerzak
Professor of English Grant Holly’s daughter is famous Hollywood actress Lauren Holly, who starred in the 1999 drama Any Given Sunday with Cameron Diaz. Diaz co-starred with Julia Roberts in 1997 romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Liza Minnelli
Submitted by Jamie Agnello ’07
Alan R. Kalter ’64 has been the on-air announcer for The Late Show with David Letterman since 1995, giving him plenty of opportunities to meet some of the world’s top performers. In 2002, Kalter had two chances to meet Liza Minnelli when she appeared as a guest on Letterman’s show.

Rachael Ray
Submitted by Kathy Stearns ’02
Nina Rubin ’81 runs a knitting shop in Chicago. The shop, nina, has been featured in several magazines, including Everyday with Rachael Ray, Ray's eponymous magazine.

Meredith Vieira
Submitted by Chimene Williams ’99
Derek Che ’94 has earned two Daytime Emmys for his work as a producer on the The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Che had a chance to meet Meredith Vieira when she was a guest on DeGeneres’ show in 2006 and again in 2007.

Margaret Sanger
Submitted by Lia Melrose ’95 and Sheri Friedberg ’00
Katharine Houghton Hepburn, the actress niece of a Hobart and William Smith Colleges English Professor, and Margaret Sanger worked together to help found the organization that became Planned Parenthood.

Margaret Mead
Submitted by Michele Van Epps ’75

Anthropologist and author Margaret Mead was honored with an Elizabeth Blackwell award in 1964.

Hillary Clinton
Submitted by Sarah McPhie ’90
More than 2000 members of the Colleges’ community gathered in 2000 to welcome First Lady Hillary Clinton to campus when she offered remarks as part of the President’s Forum speaker series.

Deborah Harry
Submitted by Christina M. Hunt ’97
On March 24, 2004, Hobart alumnus Alan Kalter, the “voice of the Tonight Show,” welcomed Blondie to the David Letterman stage.

Barbara Jordan
Submitted by Jodi Farley ’94
Congresswoman Barbara Jordan was awarded the Blackwell award in 1993.

Kevin Bacon
Submitted by Anna Burns ’05
Kevin Bacon’s a man, which is sort of against our policy of connecting famous women to William Smith College, but we appreciate the humor, so here it is: Kevin Bacon’s nephew, Neil Bacon, is a 2005 Hobart graduate. One degree!

Abigail Johnson
Submitted by Katharine Campbell Simons ’98
Abigail Johnson, president of Fidelity Employer Services Company, is also a 1984 graduate of William Smith College.  

Julia Stiles
Submitted by Lydia Broughton-Wilder ’05
Professor of English Grant Holly’s daughter is famous Hollywood actress Lauren Holly, who starred in the 1999 drama Any Given Sunday with Cameron Diaz. Diaz co-starred with Julia Roberts in 1997 romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding. Roberts co-starred in the 2003 film Mona Lisa Smile, playing a feminist college professor. One of her students is played by Julia Stiles.

Wangari Maathai
Submitted by Janine Waller ’99
African ecologist and activist Wangari Maathai was the Colleges’ 1996 Commencement speaker and is a member of the William Smith Centennial Honorary Committee.

Nichelle Nichols
Submitted by Michael Ruiz ’99
Professor of English Elisabeth Lyon was the director of development for the 1999 film Election, which starred actress Reese Witherspoon. She and ex-husband Ryan Phillipe appeared together 1999 drama Cruel Intentions. Phillipe also starred with Helen Mirren in 2001’s Gosford Park. Mirren shared screen time with Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 2005 thriller Shadowboxer. Gooding costarred with Star Trek actress and NASA recruit Nichelle Nicholsin the 2002 film.

Rosa Parks
Submitted by Joanne Anauo ’04, Joshua Hilton '10 and Bob Shorb P'11
Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks headed the Youth Division at the Montgomery NAACP branch for years. Through her work, she met activist Ella Baker, who served as a field secretary for the civil rights organization. Baker was known for traveling the country in support of the "Free Angela" campaign, a movement to help get activist and professor Angela Davis out of jail. Davis spoke to HWS students on campus in 1995.

Marilyn Monroe
Submitted by Sarah Tillson Sardella ’98
Blonde bombshell Monroe shared a scene with actor Jim Backus in the 1952 thriller, "Don't Bother to Knock." Backus was also a frequent guest on game shows in the 1960s, especially Password, which was hosted by Alan Ludden. The game show wunderkind also hosted the GE College Bowl, where he had a chance to meet the 4 HWS students making up the Colleges' undefeated team.

Georgia O'Keefe
Submitted by Carolyn Lesemann-Happy '86
In the 1920s, O'Keefe moved to New York City and had an opportunity to establish friendships with several influential artists. One of her closest friends at that time was Arthur Dove '03, one of America's first abstract painters and a proud Hobart graduate. While building his art collection, Harry “Hunk” Anderson '49, LL.D. '67 acquired one of O'Keefe's paintings. Learn more in this Fall 2000 story.

Barbara Bush
Submitted by Judy Beatty Hood ’67
In 2000, political adviser Rick Davis spoke as part of the President's Forum speaker series. Davis served on both the presidential campaign and White House staff of George H. W. Bush, and had ample opportunity to get to know former first-lady and philanthropist Barbara Bush.


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