Alfre Woodard to speak at 2019 commencement ceremony

2019 Commencement Speaker Alfre Woodard poses for a portrait. (Courtesy Patrick Collins)

Alfre Woodard, an award-winning actress, producer and activist, will deliver the commencement address to the Tufts University Class of 2019 on May 19. According to a press release sent to the Daily, she will be given an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the ceremony.

Woodard is best known for her roles in numerous films and productions, including HBO’s “Mandela” (1987), Spike Lee’s “Crooklyn” (1994), “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) and the Academy Award-winning film “12 Years a Slave” (2013). She has four Emmy Awards, three Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe, according to the press release.

Alongside her career as an actress, Woodard has supported the fight against HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and South Africa, according to the press release. She has been extensively involved in politics and in 2009 served on the Arts and Humanities Committee under President Barack Obama. Additionally, she has worked with Turnaround Arts, which, according to its website, is a national program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The program focuses on integrating arts education into designated schools with the goal of increasing student engagement and encouraging academic achievement. Woodard has also supported the Children’s Defense Fund.

Ellen Ochoa, Marie Cassidy, Edward J. Markey and Eva Moskowitz will also receive honorary degrees at the commencement ceremony, according to the press release. 

Ochoa, a former astronaut and director of the Johnson Space Center, will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. She was the first Hispanic director and second female director of the Center. Ochoa received a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University and joined NASA’s astronaut program in 1990. She became the first Hispanic woman to go to space on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Ochoa is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, NASA’s most prestigious award, and received the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award.

Cassidy is the director of the Medford Family Network. According to its website, the network is a parenting education and family support program that serves Medford constituents. It works to ensure that all students achieve their academic and personal goals by creating a safe learning environment. Cassidy will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. A native of Massachusetts and graduate of Boston College, Markey served for 37 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and represented Massachusetts’ 5th District, which includes parts of Tufts’ Medford and Somerville campuses, according to his website. He was elected to Senate in 2013 and has amassed an array of environmental legislative achievements. Markey is the co-author of the Green New Deal with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The final honorary degree recipient is Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools. According to its website, Success Academy Charter Schools was founded in 2006 and is the highest-performing public charter school network in New York City. Moskowitz not only founded the organization but also served as the Chair of the New York City Council’s Education Committee. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Also, Susan Elizabeth Rice will be speaking to the graduates of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy on May 18. Rice served as the U.S. National Security Advisor under President Barack Obama and Ambassador to the United Nations.

U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) will address the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy graduates on Sunday, May 19. He is the founder of the House Hunger Caucus and Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, according to his website.

Ioannis Miaoulis, a Tufts alumnus and former dean, will speak to bachelor’s degree graduates of the School of Engineering during their commencement program on May 19. He is the former director of Boston’s Museum of Science and has advocated for the incorporation of engineering into the curriculum of public schools in Massachusetts.

Michael Tzannes, former Aware, Inc. CEO, will address the School of Engineering’s graduate program students on May 18.


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