Co-Founder of Beauty Product Company to be Scripps Commencement Speaker

Scripps College announced last week that Nonie Creme SC '94, the creative director of the beauty product company Butter London, will deliver the 2014 commencement address, but the selection of a speaker from the beauty product industry raised concerns among students.

Creme, who studied art at Scripps, co-founded Butter London in 2005 and has since helped the company grow into a recognized brand name. Butter London is especially well known for its nail polish line, which has eliminated three of the most common toxins found in nail polish.

Lauren Prince SC ’14 said that she was disappointed when she first heard about the speaker selection. 

“I feel like it perpetuates a stereotype about women’s colleges—that we’re really into materialistic things and fashion and makeup that I don’t think necessarily reflects the Scripps student body,” Prince said. “I think it reflects negatively on the college to sort of continue that stereotype.”

Prince added that she, as well as some parents and faculty members, are disappointed by the decision to have an alumna speak. 

“The other thing I was frustrated about was our continued reliance on alumnae for commencement speakers," she said. "There’s a certain Scripps experience we’ve all had, and while it’s different in every way, it means that a lot of the messages we’re receiving for our commencement speech is the same, packaged in a different way."

Other students are excited by the selection of Creme. Aileen Le SC ’14 said that she is impressed by Creme’s accomplishment as a founding member of an international business.

“I would say that I am interested in women’s consumer goods too, so for me, she’s a perfect match," Le said. "I’ve always felt that it’s been a little underrepresented in the sense of speakers being brought here, so for me I was thrilled to see them bring her to campus."

A student committee led the initial search for this year’s commencement speaker. Senior Class Representatives Emma Brillhart SC ’14 and Orianna LaVilla SC ’14, who were part of the committee, wrote in an email to TSL that the committee looked into potential speakers as they were proposed by the senior class, which then voted on whether the committee should reach out to the candidate.

The committee invited Ellen DeGeneres, Wendy Davis, and Jenji Kohan, according to LaVilla.

Denise Nelson Nash, vice president and secretary of the board of trustees, wrote in an email to TSL that her office was not involved with the committee during the initial search. However, when none of the three invited speakers responded affirmatively, she met with Brillhart and LaVilla in early December 2013 to discuss potential alumna speakers.

“We selected candidates from lists of alumnae who have won some form of outstanding alumna award from the school in the past, someone who had been successful in their career, and someone who we thought would be able to deliver a good speech,” Brillhart wrote. “We wanted someone who would inspire us to enter the post-college world confidently, courageously, and hopefully.”

The full committee did not reconvene due to time constraints, according to Brillhart and LaVilla.

“We essentially had two weeks to determine a list of alumnae, contact them, hear back, and confirm them as speaker,” Brillhart wrote. “We had a limited amount of time and we tried as much as possible to incorporate our classmates’ desires.”

LaVilla said that the fact that Scripps does not pay its commencement speakers makes it challenging to secure a non-alumna speaker. 

In response to student concerns about the choice of speaker, LaVilla said that the focus on Butter London as a beauty product company overlooks Creme’s success as an innovative entrepreneur.  

“Ms. Creme has expressed, herself, that she was not necessarily at the top of her class and was not a Fulbright scholar," LaVilla wrote. "However, she followed her passions and stuck true to her values in establishing an incredibly successful business.” 

Nash also praised Creme's accomplishments. 

“She represents Scripps women who move around the glass ceiling barrier and found their own companies," Nash wrote. 

Brillhart, LaVilla, and Nash all said that Creme is excited and honored to be the commencement speaker.

“Nonie credits the inspiration from her Scripps years as the foundation from which she discovered her artistic passion and founded a global company," Nash wrote. "She's an entrepreneur who found that her Scripps art degree provides the framework for her career."