Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States, UVA’s Commonwealth Professor of English Rita Dove will deliver the keynote address at Emory University’s 168th commencement ceremony Monday, May 13, in Atlanta. She also will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree. A day earlier on Sunday, May 12, Dove will be in Boston to receive a Doctor of Humane Letters from Emerson College at its 133rd commencement exercises.
Emory’s President James W. Wagner, who will preside over the ceremony for about 3,700 graduates, said, "Rita Dove's contributions to our collective intellectual, creative and interdisciplinary life serve as an example of how to create new opportunities for community and collaboration. We are pleased to welcome her back to the Emory community, given her recent involvement through the Center for Women at Emory and the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference.” Two other individuals will join Dove this year as recipients of honorary degrees at Emory: Marguerite "Maggy" Barankitse, Burundi Humanitarian activist and founder and president of Maison Shalom, the multi-functional service agency Maison Shalom in the wake of severe ethnic violence between Tutsis and Hutus in Burundi in the early 1990's; and, Michael Graves, architect and designer known for redefining the architect’s role in society, founding principal of the firm Michael Graves & Associates, and the Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus at Princeton University, where he taught for 39 years. Commencement will take place on Emory’s campus quadrangle with more than 14,000 expected to be in attendance. For details on commencement weekend, see www.emory.edu/commencement.
At Emerson College, Dove will be joined by three other honorary degree recipients: Max Mutchnick, Emmy Award winner and co-creator of the hit television show Will & Grace; Debbie Allen, actress, choreographer, television director and producer, best known for her role as dance instructor Lydia Grant on the television show Fame; and,Eugene M. Lang, a philanthropist who launched multiple manufacturing ventures for new and innovative technologies earlier in his career, establishing the Eugene M. Lang Foundation in 1963 and the well-known I Have A Dream Program in 1981, which provided guidance and support to thousands of disadvantaged children. Approximately 900 bachelor’s degrees will be conferred at the ceremony, and more than 300 master’s degrees will be conferred during the graduate exercises. For more details, http://www.emerson.edu/commencement.
Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995, and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. A major figure in American and African American literature, she is known for her interdisciplinary approach and her collaborative ventures with composers, musicians, dancers, and other artists. Dove has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She is the only poet to have received both the National Humanities Medal (from President Bill Clinton in 1996) and the National Medal of Arts (from President Barack Obama in 2012). She was honored with the Library of Virginia's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and in 2009 she received the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal.
Since 1993, Dove has held the chair of Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville where she teaches poetry writing in the Creative Writing Program of the Department of English.