Diane Foley Announced as Keynote Speaker for 2021 Commencement 

Diane Foley Announced as Keynote Speaker for 2021 Commencement 
Suzanne Morrissey

Brewster Academy is pleased to announce that Diane M. Foley will be the keynote speaker at the school’s Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 29, 2021. 

Ms. Foley is the mother of five children, including American freelance conflict journalist and videographer James W. Foley. James, known to friends and family as Jim, grew up in Wolfeboro and graduated from Kingswood High School in 1992. After college, he began his career teaching with Teach for America. Later working as an embedded journalist in Iraq, he went on to cover conflict in Afghanistan, Libya, and ultimately Syria. While working there as a freelance war correspondent during the Syrian Civil War, Jim was abducted and publicly executed in August 2014. Less than two months later, his mother founded the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation (JWFLF). She currently serves as the Foundation’s President and Executive Director.

Since 2014, Ms. Foley has led JWFLF efforts to fund the start of Hostage US, a non-profit that supports families of Americans taken hostage abroad and hostages when they return home, and the international Alliance for a Culture of Safety (ACOS), which champions safe and responsible journalistic practices. In 2015, she actively participated in the National Counterterrorism Center hostage review, which culminated in the Presidential Policy Directive-30. This directive re-organized U.S. efforts on behalf of Americans taken hostage abroad into an interagency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, and a White Hostage Response Group. In December 2020, The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation launched the Foley Freedom Blog to give voice to families of Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad, journalists, educators, students, and Foundation staff. The blog articles help raise awareness about the Foundation’s mission to advocate for the freedom of all Americans held hostage abroad and promote the safety of journalists worldwide.

The Foundation also partners with Marquette University’s Center for Peacemaking, and earlier this month collaborated with Hostage Aid Worldwide (HAW) at a launch event, during which Ms. Foley was a featured speaker alongside N.H. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Florida Congressman Ted Deutch, and Amnesty International UK Ambassador and Iranian-born actress Nazanin Boniadi.

Ms. Foley and her team also established the James W. Foley Freedom Awards, which honor people who, like Jim, hold an uncompromising commitment to the freedom of the press and the dignity of each person. This year’s Awards ceremony will take place on August 19, 2021 and honor the 2020 recipients: American Hostage Freedom Awardee Jason Poblete, World Press Freedom Awardee Anna Therese Day, Humanitarian Awardee The Free Burma Rangers (accepted by founder David Eubank), and the James W. Foley Legacy Achievement Awardee Ali Soufan.

Previously, Ms. Foley worked first as a community health nurse and then as a family nurse practitioner for 18 years. She received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H.

Ms. Foley is also featured in 200 Women, a landmark international project showcasing striking photographic portraits of women that will be hosted by Brewster later this year. (Brewster is proud to be one of only a handful of institutions in the U.S. hosting this exhibition and sharing it with the greater community.) The exhibition is based on the book 200 Women: Who Will Change The Way You See The World in which women—both famous and unknown to the world—from wildly different locations and backgrounds pose for a portrait and answer five fundamental questions: What really matters to you? What brings you happiness? What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? What would you change if you could? and Which single word do you most identify with? The project  is designed to provoke thought and discussion about difference, equality, and authenticity—about what it means to be a woman and what it means to be human.

As the members of the Class of 2021 embark on their post-Brewster paths, Diane Foley serves as an impressive example of a person living a life of purpose—our community is grateful she will be a part of the Commencement ceremony in May. 

For more information about Jim and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation (including the Foley Freedom Awards and the Foley Freedom Blog and more), please visit jamesfoleyfoundation.org

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