Commencement Speaker

The Sage Colleges is pleased to announce that Nancy S. Mueller will deliver the 98th commencement address on Saturday, May 16, 2015. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at the Houston Field House on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute campus in Troy.

Chemistry, Quiches and a Super Yacht ­ – the Varied Life’s Work of Nancy Mueller
Nancy MuellerNancy Mueller, who grew up in Latham, NY, is a 1965 graduate of Russell Sage College. She majored in chemistry and after graduation she moved to Palo Alto, CA, and joined Syntex Corporation as pharmaceutical chemist. In 1977, Mueller started her own business, Nancy’s Specialty Foods, and began nationally distributing Nancy’s Deli Spirals, quiche and other appetizers and entrees through retail and club store venues.  After 22 years, she successfully sold the business in 1999. Seeking new experiences, her love of sailing inspired her to fulfill a dream, and she commissioned Feadship to build a super yacht, which she named Andiamo (“Let’s go” in Italian), for round the world cruising and diving and use as a charter.  Ten years later, after touring hundreds of remote islands and countries with friends and family, she sold the vessel and returned to life on land. 

Mueller has received many awards for her entrepreneurial endeavors and was guest lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business for many years.  She serves on the boards of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, San Francisco Opera, and the American Prairie Reserve.  An active member of Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS), and Palo Alto University Rotary Club, she is passionate about many causes including WildAid, Northern Sierra Partnership and Avenidas.  In addition to continued exotic travel, Mueller spends time in Kona, Hawaii and enjoys skiing at Lake Tahoe.  She also loves to swim, scuba dive and learn photography along with keeping up with the digital world.  Her newest acquisition is a drone.  She lives in Palo Alto, CA, and Hawaii.

Honorary Degree Recipients
Sage will award honorary degrees this year to two very different accomplished individuals: a nurse executive turned ALS advocate and a renowned Classical conductor.

Battling ALS is Her New Life’s Work
Madeline Ruether KennedyMadeline Ruether Kennedy will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.  Kennedy was born and raised in Troy, New York.  She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Georgetown University in 1975 and studied at Trinity College, Oxford University, in 1974.  She earned a Master of Science in Nursing Administration from George Mason University in 1982. Kennedy spent her entire 37 year nursing career in Mental Health. She was head nurse of the Adolescent Unit at Emory John Brady Hospital in Colorado Springs and later the head nurse of another Adolescent Unit at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, DC. Kennedy returned to Troy to raise her family in 1982. She worked as Nursing Supervisor and in administrative positions at Four Winds Hospital in Saratoga and spent the last 11 years of her career as an adjunct professor at Russell Sage College.

In May of 2012 Kennedy was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Although this ended her nursing career, she quickly embraced advocacy and spreading awareness while battling the disease. Kennedy has participated in a variety of research studies, been named to several ALS research committees, given numerous speeches and interviews and authored articles in national media. She has also helped raise more than $100,000 for local and national ALS groups. Each year since her diagnosis, she has traveled to Capitol Hill to lobby for funds and legislation for ALS.  Kennedy maintains her own website: and was named a Research Ambassador by the ALS Consortium (NEALS). 

Kennedy is an avid golfer who uses an adaptive golf cart which enables her to keep playing. A clip of Kennedy at an ALS golf fundraiser she organized earlier this year went viral on the internet when she sank a 77.5 ft putt on live TV. You can view it here. 

Conducting the Direction of American Symphonic Music
David Alan MillerDavid Alan Miller will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Miller, music director of the Albany Symphony since 1992, is a Grammy Award-winning conductor who has established a reputation as one of the leading American conductors of his generation. Through exploration of unusual repertoire, educational programming, community outreach and recording initiatives, he has reaffirmed the Albany Symphony’s reputation as the nation’s leading champion of American symphonic music and one of its most innovative orchestras. He and the orchestra have twice appeared at "Spring for Music," an annual festival of America's most creative orchestras at New York City's Carnegie Hall. 

Other accolades include Columbia University’s 2003 Ditson Conductor’s Award, the oldest award honoring conductors for their commitment to American music, the 2001 ASCAP Morton Gould Award for Innovative Programming and, in 1999, ASCAP’s first-ever Leonard Bernstein Award for Outstanding Educational Programming.  Miller received a Grammy Award in January 2014 for his Naxos recording of John Corigliano's "Conjurer," with the Albany Symphony and Dame Evelyn Glennie.  

Miller holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from The Juilliard School. Prior to his appointment in Albany, he was associate conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. From 1982 to 1988, he was music director of the New York Youth Symphony.

Former Sandy Hook Principal to Be Honored
Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut when she and twenty-five others, were victims of one of the nation’s most tragic school shootings on December 14, 2012. Hochsprung was also a member of Cohort 6 of Sage College’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. Sage will posthumously award her Ed.D. Hochsprung’s family will be present to accept her degree.


Interdisciplinary academics, combining the professions and the liberal arts, community engagement, international exposure, and artistic and athletic endeavors are among the pillars of the educational experience at The Sage Colleges. Sage enrolls more than 3,000 students in bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs at the undergraduate Russell Sage College for women in Troy, N.Y.; the coeducational undergraduate Sage College of Albany in Albany, N.Y.; and the graduate-level Esteves School of Education, School of Health Sciences and School of Management, with programs on both campuses; adult education through the School of Professional and Continuing Education and via the Internet through Russell Sage Online.