Eleven-Time Grammy Winner Taylor Swift Will Address the Graduates of the Class of 2022 and Leading Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann Will Address the Graduates at the 2020/2021 Combined Ceremony; Honorary Degree Recipients Also Include Lonnie Bunch III, Susan Hockfield, Jill Lepore, and Félix Matos Rodríguez

Taylor Swift and Judith Heumann
Honorary degree recipients Taylor Swift (photo credit: Beth Garrabrant) and Judith Heumann

New York University President Andrew Hamilton and Board of Trustees Chairman William Berkley today named the honorees to be recognized at the University’s 188th and 189th Commencement Exercises—an unprecedented “doubleheader” event honoring the Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022—which will take place Wednesday, May 18, at Yankee Stadium.

A traditional morning ceremony will be held for the Class of 2022, beginning at 11:00 a.m., and a combined ceremony for the Classes of 2020 and 2021—whose celebrations were postponed due to pandemic-related restrictions—will take place in the evening at 6:00 p.m.

“I cannot overstate how thrilled I am to be coming together in person with graduates, parents, faculty, and honorees for NYU’s Commencement. Since 2019, we have been deprived of Commencement’s festive, communal joy, and its absence has been keenly felt,” said NYU President Andrew Hamilton. “Few groups of graduates are more deserving of a celebration than these classes: their pursuit of their studies disrupted, isolated by a daunting pandemic, these classes—2022, 2021, and 2020—have distinguished themselves with their grit, grace, and forbearance. We reconvene at Yankee Stadium with a renewed sense of appreciation for the act of celebrating together in person, a recognition of our graduates’ enormous achievements, and a respect for their character and perseverance.”

Singer, songwriter, producer, and director Taylor Swift will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, at the morning ceremony and address the graduates and guests on behalf of all the degree recipients for the Class of 2022. An 11-time Grammy winner, Ms. Swift is one of the most prolific and celebrated artists of her generation. She is the only female artist in history to win the music industry’s highest honor, the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, three times. Her many awards and distinctions include being the most awarded artist ever in American Music Awards’ history along with being named Artist of the Decade; winner of the BRIT Awards International Female Solo Artist of the Year in 2015 and the Global Icon Award in 2021; and Billboard’s first-ever and only two-time winner of the Woman of the Decade Award. She is the only solo artist this century to have three albums reach No. 1 in one year.

Lifelong disability rights advocate Judith Heumann will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at the evening ceremony, and will deliver the degree-recipients’ address to the Classes of 2020 and 2021. Ms. Heumann has been instrumental in the development and implementation of groundbreaking legislation supporting people with disabilities, including Section 504, the Individuals with Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Prior to founding Judith Heumann LLC, she served in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Her memoir, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, was published in 2020 and she produces the podcast The Heumann Perspective, which spotlights members of the disability community. She is also featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.

Additional honorary degree recipients for the 2022 ceremony include:

Dr. Susan Hockfield

MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield

Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Emerita and Professor of Neuroscience Susan Hockfield will receive a Doctor of Science, honoris causa. During her tenure as MIT’s first female president, Dr. Hockfield strengthened the foundations of MIT’s finances and campus planning while advancing institute-wide programs in sustainable energy and the convergence of the life, physical, and engineering sciences. As a biologist, she pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research, identifying proteins through which neural activity early in life affects brain development. Dr. Hockfield also helped shape national policy by serving under President Obama as co-chair on the steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, and as a member of a Congressional Commission evaluating the Department of Energy laboratories in 2015.

Chancellor of the City University of New York Félix V. Matos Rodríguez will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Chancellor Matos Rodríguez is the first BIPOC educator and the first Latino to lead the nation’s largest urban public university, serving 270,000 degree-seeking students and 225,000 adult and continuing education students in 25 campuses across New York City’s five boroughs. Chancellor Matos Rodríguez’s distinguished career spans both academia and the public sector: He is a scholar, teacher, administrator, and former cabinet secretary for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Chancellor Matos Rodríguez previously served as the president of Queens College and of Hostos Community College, making him one of a select few US educators to have been president of both a community and baccalaureate institution.

Chancellor Matos Rodríguez

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez

Those being honored in the ’20/’21 ceremony in addition to Ms. Heumann are:

Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Lonnie G. Bunch III

Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Lonnie G. Bunch III (Photo credit: Robert Stewart, Smithsonian Institution)

Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Lonnie G. Bunch III will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. In his current capacity, he oversees 21 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, and numerous research and education centers. Secretary Bunch was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, where he led the museum from the idea stage into the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to the African American story. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House in 2002 and reappointed by President Obama in 2010. His numerous awards include the Roosevelt Institute Freedom Medal; the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal from the Hutchins Center at Harvard University; the National Equal Justice Award from the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund; and France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor.

Harvard professor, author, and journalist Jill Lepore will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. A prolific author of over a dozen books, Dr. Lepore’s These Truths: A History of the United States was named one of Time magazine’s top 10 nonfiction books of the decade. As a staff writer at the New Yorker and the producer and host of the popular podcast The Last Archive, she engages the public in conversations about some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation, ranging from race riot commissions, the decline of democracy, and the literature of plagues. Dr. Lepore is the recipient of many honors, including the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought, the Bancroft Prize, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, the Berkshire Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best nonfiction book on race. She joined the Harvard University History Department in 2003 and was named Harvard College Professor in 2012, in recognition of distinction in undergraduate teaching.

Harvard Professor and writer Jill Lepore

Harvard Professor and writer Jill Lepore (Photo credit: Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard University)

Other honorees that will be recognized at pre-Commencement events include:

The Albert Gallatin Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Society will be presented to two recipients this year. Joel S. Ehrenkranz (LAW ’61, ’63)—NYU trustee; NYU School of Law life trustee; founding partner, Ehrenkranz Partners LP; and noted philanthropist—will receive the honor for his lifelong commitment to expanding opportunities for talented students of modest means and for his success in promoting a dynamic and inclusive arts community in New York and around the world. Evan R. Chesler (ARTS ’70; LAW ’75)—renowned litigator, educator, philanthropist, NYU trustee, NYU School of Law trustee, and chair of the NYU Arts and Science Board—will be recognized for his extraordinary support for the NYU community as a generous patron, avid mentor, and inspired educator, as well his outstanding contributions to the legal profession.

The Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City will be presented to Mitchell L. Moss, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy & Planning and director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU.

In honor of the graduates, the Empire State Building will be lit in NYU violet on Tuesday, May 17, the eve of Commencement. For more information, please visit the NYU Commencement site.

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