Irish president Mary McAleese will be the commencement speaker at the Mount Holyoke College commencement this May.

Ms. McAleese is also to receive an honorary degree from the women’s college in Massachusetts.

She will speak at the college as part of a visit to western Massachusetts organized with the support of Congressman Richard Neal, who is also a trustee of Mount Holyoke. The congressman has been active in U.S.-Ireland relations for many years.

College President Joanne V. Creighton said: "In overcoming discrimination and adversity in Belfast and in rising to become a leader of the Irish people, she exemplifies all that we hope for in Mount Holyoke students: leadership and a commitment to purposeful engagement in the world.

“Many in Massachusetts, with our longstanding ties to Ireland, will look forward to her remarks with great anticipation."

Congressman Neal said that it was a “great honor” to have the president visiting western Massachusetts.

“I have had the privilege of knowing President McAleese for many years, and she is one of the most progressive and charismatic leaders in public life today,” the congressman said at a press conference held at the college Monday.

“Her tenure as head of state has been a remarkable success, and Ireland's standing across the globe has never been stronger.”

Founded in 1837, and Mount Holyoke is the first of the “Seven Sisters” - the female equivalent of the once predominantly male Ivy League.  The college is one of the most prestigious women’s colleges in the U.S., and is one of the top producers of Fullbright scholars.

Princess Lolowah al-Faisal al Saud, founder of Effat University, the first private university for women in Saudi Arabia, is also to be awarded an honorary doctorate at the commencement.