With the close of the academic year quickly arriving for most area colleges and universities, the class of 2011 prepares for their commencement ceremonies that will send them out into the real world. Typically associated with the pomp and circumstances of these ceremonies is the appearance of a special guest speaker, who will address the crowd of graduates and leave them with a bit of sage advice before wishing them the best of luck. Below are a few of the notable names that will be making appearances at area schools.
Berklee College of Music’s commencement ceremony, on Saturday, May 7, will feature a bevy of Grammy award winners.
- Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, flautist, arranger, composer, and bandleader Kenny Garrett’ first album entirely of his own compositions earned a Grammy Award nomination in 1997.
- Vocalist Mavis Staples, earned multiple Grammy nods as a gospel singer, is a Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner, and named by VH1 as one of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll and by Rolling Stone as among the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
- Grammy and Latin Grammy Award-winning, composer, arranger, and bandleader Chucho Valdés, has released more than 85 albums under his own name, and will be speaking to the graduates about his life experiences.
- Bebo Valdés was invited by director Fernando Trueba to appear in and play on the soundtrack for his 2000 documentary on Latin jazz, Calle 54. Valdés earned a Grammy Award and a Latin Grammy Award for his work on the film. Over the last decade, Valdés has worked on four more films, which have gained recognition by the prestigious Spanish Academy of Cinematic Arts and Sciences and by the BBC.
- Michael McDonald’s work with the Doobie Brothers, along with his prolific songwriting, keyboards, and vocal stylings has helped him to build a longtime successful career. McDonald won his fifth Grammy in 1984 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal with James Ingram.
The event will be held at the 7,000-seat Agganis Arena at Boston University. All of the guest speakers will receive honorary doctor of music degrees.
Also on May 7, actress and humanitarian Mia Farrow will speak at the University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts commencement in the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Farrow, selected by Time magazine in 2008 as one of the most influential people in the world, has traveled to the Darfur region of the Sudan many times since 2004. She has starred in movies such as Rosemary’s Baby, See No Evil, and The Great Gatsby.
Emerson College’s 131st Commencement exercises on Monday, May 16, at the Wang Theatre will feature an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director. Richard LaGravenese, a 1980 graduate of Emerson College, will deliver the undergraduate address. The writer of numerous screenplays, including The Fisher King, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1992, The Ref (written with Emerson classmate Denis Leary), The Bridges of Madison County, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Horse Whisperer, and Beloved. He has also written and directed several films including Living Out Loud, Freedom Writers, and P.S. I Love You. Most recently, he wrote the screenplay for the current hit movie Water for Elephants, starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.
At the undergraduate ceremony on May 21, at Western New England College in Springfield, Massachusetts, social and political humorist Jimmy Tingle will speak. Tingle has been a stand-up comic, writer, commentator and actor on radio, television and film for three decades. He served as a commentator and humorist for “60 Minutes II” and MSNBC and was a correspondent for the Strategic Humor Initiative with Sir David Frost on PBS and the BBC. His other television credits include CNN, “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Larry King’s Weekend,” as well as his own HBO comedy special. He has appeared in films as well including Chris Rock’s Head of State. Tingle was also owner and producing artistic director for “Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theater” in Somerville, MA. He is winner of the prestigious “Best of Boston” award as both a stand-up performer and a theater producer.
At Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, the undergraduate commencement speaker is Mitch Albom, a best-selling author, nationally acclaimed newspaper columnist for the Detroit Free Press, host of two popular radio shows and a television commentator who regularly appears on ESPN’s Sports Reporters and ABC. His nine books include Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven and For One More Day. Tuesdays with Morrie sold over 14 million copies and is now the best-selling memoir of all time. The Emmy Award-winning TV movie featured Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria, and was produced by Oprah Winfrey. In 2004, he wrote the screenplay for “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” the ABC TV movie starring Jon Voight and Ellen Burstyn. He has appeared on many TV programs including “Oprah,” “The Today Show,” “Larry King Live” and “Charlie Rose.” The ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 22.
Also in Connecticut on May 22, actor Tom Hanks will speak to the Ivy League graduates at the annual Yale University Class Day. Hanks has won Academy Awards for performances in the movies Philadelphia, and Forrest Gump, and also starred in Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan.
It was also just announced on Friday morning that Katie Couric will be giving Boston University’s commencement address on May 22. The former co-anchor of NBC News’s Today Show for 15 years only recently announced that she will step down as the anchor of the CBS Evening News.
Go Hollywood East!