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Former Congressman and NEH head James A. Leach to be Shepherd’s Commencement speaker May 7

ISSUED: 12 April 2016
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Former Iowa Congressman James A. Leach will deliver the commencement address at Shepherd University’s 143rd Commencement on Saturday, May 7.

Leach, who currently serves as Chair in Public Affairs, Visiting Professor of Law, and Senior Scholar at the University of Iowa College of Law, is the former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. His research area at the Iowa College of Law is American politics.

Leach is best known for his 30 years of service as a representative in Congress where he chaired the Banking and Financial Services Committee, the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Following his time in Congress, he was a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and interim director of the Institute of Politics and lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Under his leadership at the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Bridging Cultures program was created to promote understanding and mutual respect for diverse groups within the United States and abroad. As part of this effort, NEH-supported programs were designed to expand citizen understanding of American history and values, the civil rights movement, and foreign cultures. In addition, the agency helped launch a National Digital Public Library to establish a unified gateway to digital collections of books, artworks, and artifacts from libraries, museums, and other cultural sites across the country. Leach presided over the culmination of decades-long projects such as the publication of the “Autobiography of Mark Twain” and the “Dictionary of American Regional English.”

He holds 13 honorary degrees, has received decorations from two foreign governments, and is the recipient of the Wayne Morse Integrity in Politics Award, the Adlai Stevenson Award from the United Nations Association, the Edgar Wayburn Award from the Sierra Club, the Norman Borlaug Public Service Award, and the Woodrow Wilson Medal from Princeton.

Leach has served on the board of several public companies and a series of nonprofit organizations, including the Century Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Kettering Foundation, Pro Publica, and Common Cause, which he chaired. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Council on Foreign Relations, and formerly served as a trustee of Princeton University.

Leach earned a B.A. from Princeton University in 1964 and an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966.

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