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Correction appended.

For David Rohde '90, addressing the class of 2010 during Brown's 242nd Commencement marks another step in a journey that has taken him from Providence to Pakistan and back again.

Rohde, who will also receive an honorary degree, is slated to deliver this year's baccalaureate address on May 30, according to a University press release issued Wednesday.

Nobel laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela will also receive an honorary degree. Mandela will accept his degree in absentia, with the charge d'affaires at the South African embassy receiving the honor in his place, according to the press release.

"I think it's quite unusual to reach out to someone who cannot come to accept the degree,"said University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson, who organizes and hosts the Baccalaureate event. She said she believes the University wants to "send that very deep bow and thank you" even if a recipient is not well enough to come.

Rohde, an author and two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter, graduated from Brown in 1990 with a degree in history.

He survived almost a year of captivity under Taliban combatants before escaping back to the U.S. in June 2009. His November visit to the University marked his first public speech, just four months after escaping captivity.

Rohde earned Pulitzer prizes for his 1996 coverage of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia and as part of a New York Times team of reporters covering Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009. Rohde was captured twice in his career, once in Bosnia and again in Pakistan. He has also penned a book about his experience in captivity — "A Rope and A Prayer: The Story of a Kidnapping" — that will be published in fall 2010, according to the press release.

Joining Rohde and Mandela as honorary degree recipients is a distinguished roster of seven other prominent statesman, scholars and public figures. These include actor Morgan Freeman, computer science innovator Barbara Liskov, Iranian novelist Shahrnush Parsipur, Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards '80, India scholar Romila Thapur and Professor Emeritus of History Gordon Wood.

Many of the degree recipients in attendance will take part in forums and other events on May 29, the press release said. No recipient will speak at the Commencement ceremony, since it is Brown tradition to feature two graduating seniors as speakers.

"I'm guessing that (Rohde's) speech to the class will be focused on themes that he has talked about quite a bit since then, as in the place of journalism, the freedom of the press and keeping the world's voice visible," Cooper Nelson said. She said she has not yet received the title of his speech.

The baccalaureate speech harkens back to a 13th century tradition of presenting the "laurels of oration" to graduating seniors, according to Cooper Nelson.

"Mr. Rohde's speech is the gift we're giving to the undergraduates," she said.

Baccalaureate speakers and honorary degree recipients are selected by a committee of corporation members and faculty, Cooper Nelson said. Anyone can nominate individuals for selection.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Rohde's book, "A Rope and A Prayer: The Story of a Kidnapping," was a novel. In fact, it is a non-fiction work.



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