Rebecca Haag ’74 Selected as Wells College’s 2019 Commencement Speaker

March 18, 2019
The 1974 graduate of Wells, a social policy expert and passionate advocate for social justice, will give the main address at the College’s 151st Commencement ceremony this May.
Rebecca Haag

Wells College is pleased to announce Rebecca Haag '74 as the 2019 Commencement speaker. Haag's long-standing passion for social change and years of professional experience—from advocating for women's rights, to helping those living with HIV/AIDS, to her current efforts on issues of food security and poverty—are sure to bring inspiration to the class of 2019 and many guests in attendance.

Wells' Commencement ceremonies will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 18, 2019 outside the front entrance of Macmillan Hall on the Wells College campus in Aurora, N.Y.

Currently, Rebecca Haag serves as the executive director of Island Grown Initiative (IGI), a nonprofit organization focused on creating a regenerative and equity food system on Martha's Vineyard. Although commonly viewed as an exclusive resort community, the island is in fact one of Massachusetts' poorest counties, with more than 11 percent of its year-round population living in poverty and 40 percent of its school population receiving subsidized lunches.

In the summer of 2017, her agency initiated the first summer food service for Martha's Vineyard children and launched a mobile farmers market that sells fresh produce at affordable price in a low-income neighborhood. IGI also harvests produce left in the fields by local farmers and processes it into soups, stews and prepared meals that are delivered to disabled and elderly neighbors by public health workers.

Previously, Haag served as the executive director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. During her 12-year tenure, the rate of HIV in Massachusetts was reduced by 50 percent. She also spent four of those years in Washington, D.C. leading the National AIDS Coalition, which advocated for the first-ever national strategy to reduce HIV infections. President Obama announced the plan in his first year in office. She also founded AIDS United, a national organization that continues to serve as one of the most powerful voices on behalf of Americans living with HIV.

"Throughout her career, Rebecca has demonstrated a commitment to using her considerable talents to improve the lives of those around her," said President Jonathan Gibralter. "She is a perfect example of how our students and alumni use the education they gained at Wells to cultivate lives of meaning and purpose. I look forward to hearing her share her wisdom with our graduates this spring," President Gibralter added.

Rebecca Haag's numerous professional achievement awards include the John Russell Award for Public and Nonprofit Management (2005), the Positive Leadership Award from the National Association of People Living with AIDS (2010), an honorary doctorate from Simmons College (2011), the Wainwright Social Justice Award from Eastern Bank (2012) and the Schweitzer Leadership Award (2014). In June 2018, she was a recipient of the Wells College Association of Alumnae and Alumni Award, the College's highest alumni honor.

During her time as a student at Wells, Haag chaired the students' capital campaign and, upon graduation, served on the College's Board of Trustees for two years. She graduated magna cum laude from Wells in 1974 with a B.A. in economics and management and membership in Phi Beta Kappa, and later received an MBA from Boston University. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, she currently resides in Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

For more information about Wells College's 2019 Commencement exercises, please visit

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