Talk-Show Host/Author Tavis Smiley is Commencement Speaker at Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus, Thursday, May 15
Tavis Smiley and 'Wiseguy' writer Nicholas Pileggi to receive honorary degrees
Office of Public Relations
Long Island University
Brooklyn, N.Y. - A dynamic political voice of today, celebrated journalist and advocate Tavis Smiley will be the Commencement speaker at Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus on Thursday, May 15. Mr. Smiley will address an audience that includes more than 1,700 graduating students, whose own experiences could help them readily connect with his messages of self-empowerment and positive change.
At the Campus's 78th commencement exercises, University President David J. Steinberg is expected to confer 776 undergraduate, 932 graduate and 69 doctoral degrees, including an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Smiley and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree to writer Nicholas Pileggi.
"With his tireless advocacy for social change and his commitment to dialogue about racial equality and other important issues, Mr. Smiley is a powerful example for all of us and certainly for this diverse and talented class of graduates," said Brooklyn Campus Provost Gale Stevens Haynes. Noting that nearly every race and ethnic group in the world is represented on the Brooklyn Campus, including many immigrants and first-generation collegians, she added, "The determined pursuit of an education by our students, even in the face of obstacles, both personal and financial, is truly inspiring."
Representing the determination and hard work of the graduating class is Jonathan Kuhr, a political science and music-jazz studies major who calls his selection as valedictorian "a breathtaking surprise." He has excelled in both his majors, being named to the Dean's List with a 3.94 grade point average. A talented pianist, the Columbus, Ohio, native is a member of the University Honors Program and the winner of the prestigious Center for the Study of the Presidency and the Jeanette K. Watson fellowships. As a Watson fellow this summer, he will work for a community advocacy organization in Kanpur, India.
Commencement speaker Tavis Smiley, one of ten children, started his career as an aide to the late Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley. Named one of America's 50 most promising young leaders by Time magazine and one of the 20 people changing how Americans get their news by Newsweek, he is host of the television talk show "Tavis Smiley" on PBS and of "The Tavis Smiley Show" on Public Radio International. His commentary, broadcast twice weekly on the nationally syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show," reaches more than eight million listeners each week.
In addition to his accomplishments as a broadcaster, Mr. Smiley has made his mark in the publishing industry as the author of 11 books, including his latest, "What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America." He has won several NAACP Image Awards and also is the recipient of the Mickey Leland Humanitarian Award.
Honorary degree recipient Nicholas Pileggi, an Oscar, Golden Globe and Writer's Guild Award nominee, is an accomplished wordsmith. He began his career at the Associated Press in New York City, covering the police beat, before he moved to New York Magazine, where he built a reputation as the city's top crime writer. He tapped into this background to pen the true-crime bestseller "Wiseguy."
Mr. Pileggi's success on the page transferred readily to the screen. His account of the day-to-day life of a mobster in "Wiseguy" caught the attention of legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese. They co-wrote the screenplay for "Goodfellas," which made the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 films of all time.
Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented to three outstanding Brooklyn Campus graduates. Renowned art collector and real estate entrepreneur Mera Rubell '68 is a partner in Rubell Hotels, LLC, and the Rubell Family Collection. Veteran executive Jack C. Stokes '73 is manager of media relations at The Associated Press. Business executive Guy E. Marge '65, '67 is CEO and president of Storm Industries, Inc.
The Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Service will be presented to Philip Wolitzer, professor emeritus in the Department of Accounting, Taxation and Law. Wolitzer has taught, mentored and befriended thousands of students over his six-decade career at the Brooklyn Campus. Receiving the Brooklyn Campus Secondary School Teacher of the Year Award is English teacher Holly Elise Slowik of Middle School 57, The Ron Brown Academy, in Brooklyn. She has dedicated herself to opening up a whole new world of learning for students in urban environments. The Brooklyn Campus salutatorian is Jacqueline Elaine Wright, a B.S./M.S. business student majoring in accounting.
The Commencement ceremony will take place on Thursday, May 15, at 10:15 a.m. on the Campus athletic field near Flatbush and DeKalb avenues in downtown Brooklyn. It will be followed by the traditional Campus celebration with friends and family members at a post-commencement barbeque.
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