CANTON — The first Hispanic to participate in rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court bench will offer advice to graduates at St. Lawrence University this spring.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor will be one of three commencement speakers May 16. She will be joined on the stage by the Rev. Peter J. Gomes and author Chase Twichell.
"We look for people who have a connection to the university that we feel deserve the award of an honorary degree and would have something useful to say to our graduates," university spokeswoman Macreena A. Doyle said.
Ms. Twichell, a poet and founder of Ausable Press and the Rev. Mr. Gomes have both spoken previously at the university. The justice's niece, Kiley A. Sotomayor, is graduating this year from SLU.
Ms. Doyle noted that Ms. Sotomayor referred to her niece publicly when President Barack Obama nominated the justice for the Supreme Court post.
"She introduced everyone in her family," Ms. Doyle said. "She introduced Kiley and said, 'She's graduating this year and she's a lovely girl; she looks just like me.'"
SLU's Ms. Sotomayor declined to comment on her aunt's selection as a speaker and honorary degree recipient.
What pieces of advice the three honorees will have to offer to this year's approximately 500 graduates is still a mystery, though they will give the university copies of their remarks before commencement.
The justice is not the first celebrity to give a speech at graduation. Movie stars Kirk Douglas and Viggo Mortenson, both SLU alumni, have spoken, as have Maine's U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. There have also been performances, rather than speeches, from several musicians and musical groups over the years, Ms. Doyle said.
Speakers are chosen through a nomination process. Students are asked to come up with a list of names and the college's administration decides who to invite.
Justice Sotomayor was confirmed as the 111th Supreme Court Justice in August.
"I would imagine our students are quite excited to hear from the justice. She was appointed not too long ago," Ms. Doyle said. "It's very cool."