Speakers offer field expertise

by Beacon Staff • April 18, 2007

Freston, currently a member of the Emerson Board of Trustees and father of graduating senior Andrew Freston, will draw on his experience in marketing as he addresses the outgoing undergraduate class at the May 14 morning ceremony at the Citi Wang Center for the Arts.,This year Emerson will welcome longtime marketing whiz Tom Freston to speak at the undergraduate commencement ceremony and receive an honorary degree at the college's 137th commencement ceremonies.

Freston, currently a member of the Emerson Board of Trustees and father of graduating senior Andrew Freston, will draw on his experience in marketing as he addresses the outgoing undergraduate class at the May 14 morning ceremony at the Citi Wang Center for the Arts.

Freston gained national attention with his marketing strategies in the early '80s and '90s, first helping to found MTV and briefly leading part of media giant Viacom Inc., according to a press release on the college's Web site.

Freston worked with Viacom until the two parted ways in September 2006.

Freston could not be reached for comment.

Walter Mosley, a nationally acclaimed author, will speak at the 3 p.m. graduation ceremony.

Mosley found success with the Easy Rawlins detective series. His first book, Devil in a Blue Dress, was published in 1990 and was the beginning of a series of bestsellers about the gumshoe. The novel received the 1991 Shamus Award for best first Private Investigator Novel from the Private Eye Writers of America. He since has published more than 20 novels.

Other honorary degree recipients will be Emerson class of '51 graduate and chairman of the board of trustees Ted Cutler, former Emerson Vice President for Administration and Finance Robert Silverman and Massachusetts Secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles.

Cutler, who donated $2 million required to refurbish the Cutler Majestic Theatre, and Silverman, a driving force behind Emerson's move downtown, will receive their degrees at the undergraduate ceremony.

Bowles, a former federal environmental official under President Bill Clinton, will speak at the May 13 Honors Awards ceremony.

According to David Rosen, vice president of public affairs, commencement speakers are usually recommended by President Jackie Liebergottt to the Board of Trustees.

"There is a running list. On any given year it's about who's available, and who makes sense," Rosen said. "[The president] advises them about who is the speaking, in consultation with a wide variety of people."

Rosen said the fact Freston has a son who is graduating wasn't a deciding factor, but was part of the discussion.

"I think it had an effect on the timing. I think it's kind of nice that he speaks at his son's graduation. It was a question of last year, this year, or next year," Rosen said. "It wasn't why he was selected, but it had an effect."

Senior marketing major Nicole Jacobs said she thought in this case, Freston's position on the Board of Trustees could give the wrong impression, but she stressed he is still a qualified candidate.

"I think he's done a lot in his industry, he's very accomplished, very successful, and he's got a great reputation, so I think it's appropriate," Jacobs said. "He knows a lot about media, marketing, and a lot about what we do here."

Although Jacobs said she thought Freston was fit for the honor, she said the wrong perception could still exist.

"I think there might be an image of impropriety. Andrew doesn't tote his father's name," she said. "I think it could look bad for the Board of Trustees and it could put a tarnish on Tom's name, and I think it's unfortunate."