- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A long-distance swimmer, an oceanographer and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations are among this spring’s commencement speakers at Vermont colleges and universities.

Endurance athlete Diana Nyad, who last year at age 64 swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, will speak at Middlebury College’s graduation May 25.

“Diana Nyad is a bold and fearless athlete whose determination is truly inspiring,” Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz said. “Her mental strength and her belief in never giving up on her goals make her a role model for others who wish to pursue their dreams, no matter how daunting.”

Nyad’s 53-hour journey, her fifth attempt, included no shark cage or flippers. She had tried three times in 2011 and 2012, with her first attempt being in 1978.

University of Vermont graduates will hear from Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, at their May 18 commencement. Power, a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, won a Pulitzer for “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2002).” She also has served as special assistant to the president and senior director of multilateral affairs and human rights on the National Security staff at the White House.

Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, will speak at Saint Michael’s College on May 11. Earle did her first scuba dive in 1953, has spent some 7,000 hours underwater since and holds the record for solo diving to a 1000-meter depth, according to Saint Michael’s.

“I know that she will deliver a tremendous message to our community and to our students,” said Karen Talentino, Saint Michael’s vice president of academic affairs. “She speaks about trying to mobilize people to action and is particularly interested in giving messages to young women and men that there is a lot of work to do to preserve and restore the ocean. It’s just what our students need to hear.”

In other graduations, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy will deliver the commencement address at Green Mountain College in Poultney on May 17 and Gen. Keith Alexander, the former director of the National Security Agency, will speak at Norwich University on May 10.

Bennington College graduates will hear from Johnnetta Cole, the director of the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the first African-American female president of Spelman College. She will speak May 30, with degrees to be conferred the next morning.

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