Tag Archive for commencement

Commencement Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipients Announced

Wesleyan will present three honorary doctorates at the University’s 185th Commencement on May 28. The distinguished writer Claudia Rankine will deliver the Commencement address. Wesleyan will also honor Jo Handelsman, former associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Cristina Jiménez, executive director and co-founder of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country. The Baldwin Medal, the highest award of the Alumni Association, will be presented to John ’62 and Gina Driscoll.

Claudia Rankine
Poet, essayist and playwright, Claudia Rankine is the recipient of numerous awards for work described as fearless in its pursuit of new directions in American poetry.

Bryan A. Stevenson Named Commencement Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipients Announced

Wesleyan will present three honorary doctorates at the University’s 184th Commencement on May 22, 2016. Bryan A. Stevenson, a staunch advocate for racial justice who has fought against inequities in our judicial system, will deliver the Commencement address. Wesleyan will also honor Patti Smith, a legendary singer and writer celebrated for her path-breaking music and powerful memoirs, and Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher known for his compelling work on cosmopolitanism, identity and ethics. The Baldwin Medal, the highest award of the Wesleyan Alumni Association, will be presented to John Usdan ’80, P’15, P’18, P’18.

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan A. Stevenson

Bryan A. Stevenson is a human rights lawyer who has dedicated his life to fighting racial injustice and discrimination in the criminal justice system. He is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based group that has won numerous legal challenges on behalf of the poor and incarcerated, including a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that life-without-parole sentences for children aged 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

Professor Stevenson also teaches at the New York University School of Law and founded the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in 1989 to help prisoners on death row, and the scope of its mission has expanded since.

Miranda ’02, Tatum ’75, Price to be Honorary Degree Recipients at Wesleyan’s 183rd Commencement

Wesleyan will honor three remarkable leaders in their fields with honorary degrees at the university’s 183rd Commencement on May 24, 2015. Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, an award-winning composer, lyricist, writer and actor, will present the Commencement Address. Wesleyan also will award honorary degrees to Beverly Daniel Tatum ’75, president of Spelman College and an expert in race relations and higher education, and Michael Price, the longtime executive director of Goodspeed Musicals.

Lin-Manuel Miranda '02 (Photo courtesy of linmanuel.com)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 (Photo courtesy of linmanuel.com)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02
Lin-Manuel Miranda is the Tony and Grammy-winning composer-lyricist of Broadway’s In the Heights, which received four 2008 Tony Awards, with Miranda receiving a Tony Award for Best Score, and a nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. In The Heights was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The show’s first incarnation was staged at the ’92 Theater at Wesleyan in 2000. Miranda is also the co-composer/co-lyricist of Broadway’s Bring it On: The Musical, which received a 2013 Tony nomination for Best Musical. His latest stage work is Hamilton, a musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, which had its world premiere at the Public Theater in New York City in 2015.

Along with composer Tom Kitt, Miranda won the 2014 Creative Arts Emmy

Civil Rights Proponent Shaw ’76 to Deliver 2014 Commencement Address; Kraemer, White to Receive Honorary Degrees

Theodore M. Shaw ’76, one of the nation’s leading proponents of civil rights, will present Wesleyan’s Commencement address on May 25, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s address here. Wesleyan also will award honorary degrees to Helena Chmura Kraemer, whose work in biostatistics has had a transformative impact on medicine and psychiatry, and to Hayden White, a distinguished theorist of history.

Theodore Shaw ’76

Theodore Shaw ’76

Theodore Shaw ’76

For decades Ted Shaw has been one of the nation’s strongest advocates for equity and inclusion in our society. In courts throughout the nation, including the U.S. Supreme Court, he has argued cases involving voting rights, education, housing discrimination, capital punishment, and civil rights. He played a key role in initiating and drafting the admissions policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, and he has often testified before Congress and other legislative bodies.

He has worked with human rights lawyers in Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia, written numerous articles and opinion pieces for national publications, and has often provided expert commentary for television and radio shows.

He is professor of professional practice at Columbia University School of Law and is “Of Counsel” to Fulbright Norton Rose. For 23 years he served as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, concluding as director-counsel and president from 2004–2008. He obtained his law degree from Columbia Law School and started his career as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, he currently serves on the board of the Wesleyan University Center for Prison Education. He is a trustee emeritus of Wesleyan.

Bennet ’87, Ligon ’82, Richards P’13 Named 2012 Honorary Degree Recipients

President Michael S. Roth announced Wesleyan’s 2012 honorary degree recipients as follows:

I’m pleased to announce that U.S. Senator Michael Bennet ’87, a leading advocate for education reforms that support great teaching, will deliver the commencement address at the university’s 180th Commencement in May.

Our other honorary degree recipients at Commencement are also in the Wesleyan family: Glenn Ligon ’82, a multi-talented, nationally recognized artist; and Cecile Richards P’13, whose leadership of Planned Parenthood has helped to make the world safer and healthier.

Michael F. Bennet ’87

Michael F. Bennet ’87

Michael F. Bennet was elected to his first full term as U.S. Senator for Colorado in November 2010. He is a pragmatic and independent thinker who embodies the values of the western state he represents, and whose work has contributed to good in the world, in the best of the Wesleyan tradition.

As the father of three little girls, he is driven by a deep-seated obligation to create more opportunity for the next generation. He has been a tireless advocate – first as Denver Schools superintendent and now as a member of the Senate Education Committee – for bold, locally driven changes to public education that would ensure every child is prepared to compete in a rapidly changing economy.

His concern for the next generation has fueled his efforts to build bipartisan consensus around a comprehensive plan for deficit reduction. It has also informed his efforts to ensure the pharmaceutical drugs we take every day are safe and do not harm American families.

As Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, he led an innovative and inclusive reform effort that turned around failing schools and produced strong gains in reading, math, writing and science.

Class Get-togethers, WESeminars, Graduation at 2011 Reunion & Commencement Weekend

The Parade of Classes begins at 11:15 a.m. May 20. The annual event is a popular event during Reunion & Commencement Weekend.

Celebrate graduating seniors and reminisce with former classmates during the 2011 Reunion & Commencement Weekend May 19-22.

This year, classes ending in “1” and “6” will celebrate their reunions, and the Class of 2011 will become Wesleyan’s 179th graduating class.

“As always, I’m looking forward to R&C – it’s such a fun and celebratory time for the entire Wesleyan community, with over 150 events during three days,” says Gemma Ebstein, associate vice president for external relations in University Relations. “In addition to another incredible array of WESeminars, we’ll enjoy great live music from Grammy-nominated Jazz singer Tierney Sutton ‘86, performances by WEStand-up alumni comedians and the Wesleyan Spirits and – of course – the traditional Friday and Saturday night parties. With reunion class gatherings, academic department open houses and the Festival on Foss Hill, there’s literally something for everyone. And the weekend culminates with Commencement where we’ll hear from legendary anthropologist and physician, Paul Farmer. If you haven’t made plans to join us for this memorable Wesleyan weekend, it’s not too late to register.”

Registration begins at 10 a.m. May 19 in Usdan University Center. Alumni, parents, students and families should check in for a final weekend schedule, meal tickets, a welcome packet, campus maps and more. Campus tours begin at 9 a.m. and noon on May 20 at the Office of Admission. The entire May 19 schedule is online here.

Wesleyan’s interactive and inspiring WESeminar program begins at 11:30 a.m. May 20 with the topic “How to Learn to Like the Art You Love to Hate.” WESeminars provide opportunities to revisit the classroom and experience firsthand the academic excellence that is the essence of Wesleyan, with presentations by scholars, pundits, and other experts in their fields. Programs run approximately 60 minutes, followed by audience Q&A.

Other topics this year include Immigration Policy, Principles and Politics; Space Weather; Community Partnership and Scholarship at Wesleyan; Re-Branding Russia; The Ocean’s Oddest Creatures; The Wesleyan Media Project’s 2010 Analysis of Political Advertising; Thinking Critically about the Environment; The State of Queer Connecticut; Negotiation Skills; Japanese Printmaking; Wesleyan Alumni in Philanthropy and Public Service; and many more.

Other key events on May 20 include a Welcome Picnic Lunch at 11:30 a.m.; Wesleyan Farmers’ Market at noon;

Paul Farmer, M.D., Ph.D., 2011 Commencement Speaker

Paul Farmer is one of the founders of Partners In Health, an international health and social justice organization.

Dr. Paul Farmer, known worldwide for co-founding Partners In Health to serve the world’s poor, will receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address at Wesleyan University’s 179th Commencement in May.

Wesleyan’s other honorary degree recipients at Commencement include a legendary singer of the American Songbook, an alumnus envisioning the future of online journalism, and two local friends of the institution long dedicated to serving the Middletown community.

Hickenlooper, Simmons, Cavell, Winslow Receive Honorary Degrees

From left, Richard Winslow ’40; Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper; Wesleyan President Michael Roth; Wesleyan Board of Trustees Chair Joshua Boger '73, P'06, P'09; Stanley Cavell; and Ruth Simmons gather for a photo prior to the 2010 Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony May 23. (Photo by Bill Burkhart).

John W. Hickenlooper ’74, MA ’80; Ruth J. Simmons; Stanley Cavell; and Richard Winslow ’40 received Honorary Degrees at the 2010 Commencement Ceremony May 23.

John W. Hickenlooper received a Doctor of Laws, presented by Rob Rosenthal, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology. A geologist turned entrepreneur who had never run for political office (not even student council), Hickenlooper was elected mayor of Denver in 2003 and re-elected in 2007. In April 2005—less than two years into his first term—Time Magazine

Gemma Fontanella Ebstein Plays Key Role in Building Relationships with Alumni, Staff


Gemma Fontanella Ebstein is associate vice president for external relations. (Photo by Dena Matthews)

If you’ve enjoyed attending Wesleyan events, chances are that you have Gemma Fontanella Ebstein to thank.

As associate vice president for external relations, she has had an ever-evolving set of responsibilities, but one constant has been ensuring that events for alumni, parents and the campus community are first rate. Under her direction, for example, Wesleyan merged Commencement and Reunion weekends into one event that rapidly has become a valued Wesleyan tradition.

“Gemma has great management instincts and I can absolutely count on her to get things done,” says Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for university relations. “We can’t have successful fundraising without building excellent relationships with all our constituencies, and Gemma plays a key role in that effort. Wesleyan is fortunate to have her energy, positive attitude and leadership capability.”

During her 20 years at Wesleyan, she also led planning for Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary Celebration, merged Homecoming and Family Weekends, increased attendance at both that event and Reunion, reorganized the University Lecture Series,

R&C Weekend: WESeminars, Belichick, MoConathon, Commencement

Family and friends reunite during Reunion & Commencement Weekend May 20-23 at Wesleyan.

More than 5,000 alumni, family and friends of the university are expected to attend Reunion & Commencement Weekend on campus. The traditional series of events begins Thursday, May 20 and culminates with Commencement on Sunday, May 23.

“We have several new and exciting events this year including a benefit concert by Santigold (Santi White ’97) on Friday under the Andrus tent, and a MoConathon concert on Saturday featuring three student bands, celebrating McConaughy Hall,” says Deana Hutson, director of events and R&C weekend. “We’ll have numerous WESeminars featuring alumni, parents, faculty and students on topics that appeal to anyone.”

The Class of 1960’s 50th Reunion gathering and the Senior Class Semiformal will kick-off R&C Weekend on May 20. Campus guests who haven’t resistered online, may do so in person at the Usdan University Center.

Events on May 21 include campus tours, senior projects in film studies,

2010 Commencement Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipients Announced

John Hickenlooper '74

John Hickenlooper '74

Denver Mayor and Colorado gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper ’74 will deliver the commencement address at the university’s 178th Commencement in May.

Wesleyan will award honorary degrees to Mayor Hickenlooper; Stanley Cavell, distinguished philosopher and professor emeritus at Harvard; Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University; and Richard K. Winslow, Wesleyan class of 1940 and professor of music emeritus.

John Hickenlooper ’74

A geologist turned brewpub pioneer who had never run for political office (not even student council), John Hickenlooper was elected mayor of Denver in 2003 and re-elected in 2007. In April 2005—less than two years into his first term—Time Magazine named the political newcomer one of the top five “big-city” mayors in America. Mayor Hickenlooper brings creative leadership and innovative thinking to Denver’s city hall, drawing on his diverse background as an exploration geologist, real estate developer, and restaurateur.

Even before his political career, he was known for his civic engagement, having been involved with diverse downtown Denver renovation and development projects, especially in Denver’s Lower Downtown historic district. In recognition of these efforts, the National Trust for Historic Preservation gave him a National Preservation Award in 1997. He also led a grassroots campaign in 2000 to preserve the “Mile High Stadium” name, an effort that planted the seed for his mayoral bid.

Wesleyan Holds 177th Commencement Ceremony

More than 730 students received a Bachelor of Arts degree May 24. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

More than 730 students received a Bachelor of Arts degree May 24. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anna Quindlen P’07 did not apologize for her generation leaving the Class of 2009 with a failed economy, poor job market and uncertain housing market. Instead she charged the graduates with the opportunity to remold the nation and its spirit.

“On behalf of your elders and the entire country, I was expected to say I was sorry,” Quindlen said. “I’m not going to do that. I think, perhaps more than any generation in memory, all of you have an unparalleled opportunity to remake this nation so that it is stronger, smarter and makes more sense.”

Quindlen, a journalist and best-selling author who, until recently, wrote the “Last Word” column on the back page of Newsweek, shared her thoughts with more than 10,000 people during Wesleyan University’s 177th commencement ceremony May 24 on the Middletown, Conn. campus.

“If you become the first generation of Americans who genuinely see race and ethnicity as attributes, not stereotypes, will you not have done better? If you become the first generation of Americans with the clear understanding that gay men and lesbians are entitled to be full citizens of this country, will you not have done better? If you become the first generation of Americans who accord women full equality instead of grudging acceptance, will you not have done better,” Quindlen asked during her commencement address.

During the ceremony, 732 students received a Bachelor of Arts; 61 received a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies; two received a Certificate of Advanced Study; 31 received a Master of Arts; and 16 received a Doctor of Philosophy. Ten other students will receive a Bachelor of Arts upon completion.

In addition, Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology, and John Kirn, professor of biology, were conferred the honorary degree of Master of Arts ad eundem gradum. This degree is awarded to members of the faculty who are not graduates of Wesleyan at the bachelor’s level and who have attained the rank of full professor.

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth ’78 focused his remarks on the importance of public service and the influence of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, who was killed by a gunman May 6 while working in a café off campus.

In remembrance of Justin-Jinich, Roth asked the Wesleyan community to share their ideas and energy in the areas of health care, gun control and violence against women. Justin-Jinich had worked to improve pre-natal services for poor women.

“Around the country, violence against women remains a sad and frightening fact of life. The status quo is unacceptable,” Roth said. “Too often rape goes unpunished; too often stalking is belittled until it explodes as it did here two weeks ago, “These are crimes of violence, and we need you to help us find ways of giving women the protection of law …Now we alumni are counting on you to join us in helping to shape our culture, so that it will not be shaped by forces of oppression and violence.”

Roth also encouraged the graduates to continue with the extraordinary efforts they initiated as students at Wesleyan.

“I have no doubt that over the years you will often find that the status quo is unacceptable, and that you will then join with others to do something about it,” Roth said. “When this happens, you will feel the power and promise of your education. And we, your Wesleyan family, are proud of how you keep your education alive by making it effective in the world.”

Ravid Chowdhury ’09, president of the Wesleyan Senior Class, said he is exhilarated to join a proud tradition of Wesleyan alumni who stay true to their values of social justice and civic responsibility. He applauded students in the Class of 2009 for beginning an ecotourism company to spread environmental awareness, for starting a prison program dedicated to breaking institutional barriers and for founding a non-profit organization to promote diabetes awareness.

“Wesleyan students have heart. We are not afraid to speak out. If anyone is prepared to face this [world’s] mess and create a new way forward it is us,” Chowdhury said. “We came to this school four years ago with a bundle of ideals, beliefs and hopes. That Wesleyan state of mind has developed further in our time here together.”

Quindlen, whose son, Christopher Krovatin ’07, also is a novelist, became an official member of Wesleyan’s class of 2009 when she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the university.

Azim Premji P ’99 received a Doctor of Humane Letters during the ceremony.

Azim Premji P ’99 received a Doctor of Humane Letters during the ceremony.

Jennifer J. Alexander ’88 and Mark Masselli, and Azim Premji P ’99 also were awarded degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters during the ceremony.

Alexander and Masselli were honored for being “tremendous supporters” of the Middletown and Wesleyan communities. Premji, who was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time Magazine, was honored for establishing an organization dedicated to providing quality primary education for children in India.

Molecular biologist Dr. Laurence H. Kedes ’59 and former director of the Center for Disease Control Dr. David J. Sencer ’46 each received an honorary Bachelor of Arts degree.

The Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Douglas C. Foyle, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Government; Irina M. Russu, professor of chemistry; and John Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Roth concluded his speech citing examples of students making contributions to the larger community around us.

“Wes students have been making a positive difference,” he said. “As scholars and artists, as scientists and as writers, you set an example – you take a stand against complacency, against the acceptance of the way things are as if that is the way they have to be.”