Betty Reid Soskin to receive honorary degree from Mills College

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Betty Reid Soskin to receive honorary degree from Mills College

Mills College is set to award an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree to Betty Reid Soskin during the school’s 129th Commencement on Saturday, May 13.

Soskin, 95, of Richmond, is the nation’s oldest working National Park Service ranger and civil rights advocate who helped to establish Richmond’s Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park.

She will be awarded the honorary degree during a ceremony that runs from 9:45 a.m. to noon at Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.

In a statement, Mills College described Soskin as a “tireless, outspoken and articulate voice dedicated to remembering discrimination and segregation of African Americans who worked in Richmond, Calif. shipyards during World War II.”

Soskin is a national icon. She was the granddaughter of a freed slave and worked as a file clerk in a segregated, all-black workplace in Richmond during WWII. She later became a political activist, songwriter and co-founder of a blues and jazz record store in Berkeley with her husband that remains in business.

In reaction to learning about the honorary degree, Soskin expressed gratitude in a blog post, where she reflected upon the historic and ongoing struggle for education equality.

“No longer am I invisible or unrepresented,” Soskin wrote. “I am worthy.”

The honorary degree will be the latest in a string of awards and recognition earned by the humble, beloved servant of the nation’s parks system. Soskin’s most recent awards include a Congressional Record statement received last year. The previous year, she received a presidential coin from President Obama after she lit the National Christmas tree at the White House.

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