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Keene State College Graduates Largest Class Ever and Makes Commencement More Sustainable with Recycled Materials

College Bestows Granite State Award and Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters During Ceremony

Keene, NH, May 2, 2012: Keene State College today announces the graduation of its largest class in its 103-year history. At least 1,196 degrees will be awarded to 1,107 graduates in the class of 2012. Keene State’s Commencement ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 5. It begins at 1 p.m. on Fiske Quad.

“This year we set a record for the number of students graduating - Keene State’s academic excellence and thriving student experience has continued to cultivate strong interest in our college. I am proud of each student and of our faculty and staff who taught and supported them through their studies,” said Keene State College President Helen Giles-Gee. “Keene State alumni are prepared to be actively engaged in their communities, civic discourse and have the foundation for productive, meaningful lives. I have no doubt that the class of 2012 will live up to all of these expectations. I congratulate each student on their academic achievement today.”

In keeping with its commitment to sustainability, this year Keene State College has taken steps to make Commencement more environmentally friendly. The College worked with the company Balfour to provide gowns and caps made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. It takes an average of 23 bottles to produce one gown. These caps and gowns provide the same level of comfort as a traditional cap and gown, while helping to address the problem of tens of millions of plastic bottles being sent to U.S. landfills every day. The graduates are welcome to keep their gowns, and if they decide to return them, the material will be used to make artificial turf.

During Commencement, Mary Ann Kristiansen, local entrepreneur, artisan and community-builder, will receive the Granite State Award. The Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters will be presented to Janet Cohen, humanitarian, researcher and advocate for the Holocaust and related issues of genocide, tolerance and diversity. Both women will speak during the ceremony.

Mary Ann Kristiansen, Granite State Award recipient, is an entrepreneur, artisan, and community-builder. She has demonstrated her commitment to building and strengthening local business, and to contributing to the economic development of the Monadnock Region and New Hampshire. Mary Ann moved to the region as an artisan with a background in marketing and business administration and a Masters degree in Public Administration. Buckminster Farm, her home-based business, made soap and other hand crafted goods that were sold internationally. She had great success selling her products to businesses outside of Southwest New Hampshire, but realized there were few places to sell locally-made products from small-scale businesses, and also room to enhance the skills of local producers to grow their businesses. She opened Hannah Grimes Marketplace in 1997 to create opportunities for local artists and artisans to display and sell their work.

Janet Cohen, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters recipient, demonstrates outstanding humanitarian efforts and social responsibility. Her endeavors have made an indelible and positive impact not only on Keene State College and the Monadnock region, but also on the larger human community. Jan’s vision and her outreach are wide and global. She uses her own personal leverage intelligently and gracefully in effecting change for the betterment of humanity. While studying European and German history at the University of Vienna, Austria, as part of an honors B.A., Jan developed her strong interest in the Holocaust and its impact throughout Europe and the world. Since that time, she has promoted awareness of the Holocaust and related issues of genocide, tolerance, and diversity through education, research, and advocacy. In partnership with the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and composer Dr. Lawrence Siegel, she served as executive producer of Kaddish, a musical oratorio that offers reflections on the Holocaust.

For more information about this year’s Commencement program, visit

About Keene State College

Keene State College is a preeminent public liberal arts college that ensures student access to world-class academic programs. Integrating academics with real-world application and active community and civic engagement, Keene State College prepares graduates to meet society’s challenges by thinking critically, acting creatively, and serving the greater good. To learn more about Keene State College, visit

Keene State College: Wisdom to make a difference.

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229 Main Street
Keene, New Hampshire 03435