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Dartmouth Commencement 2009

Posted 06/14/09

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Honorary degree citation to Bill Russell (Doctor of Humane Letters)

Bill RussellYou revolutionized your sport and helped pave the way for African Americans in basketball and in American society. An NCAA champion and Olympic gold medalist, you were the cornerstone of the storied Boston Celtics. You led the team to 11 NBA titles, first as a player and then as a player-coach. A five-time winner of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award, a twelve-time NBA All Star, the first African American coach of a major-league professional team, and a strategic thinker who transformed NBA defensive concepts, you have been called the “greatest player in the history of the NBA.” This year, the league named its award for the Most Valuable Player in the finals for you.

Your reach extended far beyond the basketball court. Born in Louisiana, you grew to adulthood during an era of overt racism. But you learned from your father and grandfather to never be a victim.

You challenged the segregation and prejudice you experienced in the NBA and our wider society. You traveled to South America and Africa for the U.S. State Department and held integrated basketball clinics in Mississippi immediately following the murder of Medgar Evers. And you have devoted yourself to encouraging and supporting young people, serving on the board of the National Mentoring Partnership for many years.

Celebrating your achievements on and off the court, Dartmouth is delighted to recognize you by its bestowal of the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.

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