Margaret A> Chesney
Margaret A. Chesney ’71 accepts congratulations from Bill Gates Sr. after she was awarded an honorary doctorate at Commencement. At left is Mark Kajita, a Whitman overseer.

“I will treasure this moment with my Whitman family forever,” Margaret A. Chesney ’71 said as she accepted an honorary doctorate of humane letters at Commencement. Chesney was selected for her “invaluable contributions to the fields of psychology and medicine,” President George Bridges said as he bestowed the honor.

Chesney is a professor in the Department of Medicine and first associate director of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, a post she accepted earlier this year. For the previous five years, she was the first Deputy Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health and often served as acting director.

Chesney earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical and counseling psychology from Colorado State University. Her research has focused on the role behavior plays in health and strategies to enhance health and well-being for patients coping with cardiovascular disease and HIV/AIDS. Chesney’s commitment to address the demanding challenges in the world today “perfectly mirrors the goals and aspirations of the current generation of Whitman students,” Bridges said.

“Whitman professors played a pivotal role in all that I’ve done,” Chesney noted. During spring break, junior year, she found what she calls her “true north — the goal I would pursue my entire life.” She observed alcoholic patients in treatment.

“In an instant, I knew that I would dedicate my professional life to promoting health and encouraging those who are ill to respond to health challenges by optimizing their well-being.” Chesney returned to Whitman and announced that she needed to add a second major — psychology — during her final year.

“Only at Whitman could the faculties of two departments create a personalized curriculum so that I could apply to graduate school in psychology that fall,” she said. Chesney has received numerous professional awards and honors. The Whitman Alumni Association honored her with the Alumna of Merit Award in 1987.