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
“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
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.”