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Oprah Winfrey to Deliver Commencement Address

Colorado College will hold its Commencement ceremony at 8:30 a.m., Sunday, May 19, with global media leader, philanthropist, producer, and actress Oprah Winfrey giving this year’s Commencement address. The ceremony will be held on CC’s Tava Quad (formerly known as Armstrong Quad) and ticketed seating will be limited to graduating seniors and their guests. The ceremony will be live-streamed from the college’s website.

Winfrey has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired figures today. She also is a dedicated philanthropist. During a December 2002 visit with Nelson Mandela, she pledged to build a school in South Africa; today, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls provides an excellent education for 8th- to 12th-grade girls in South Africa. Winfrey has contributed more than $200 million toward providing education for academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Winfrey is an Academy Award-nominated actress for her role in “The Color Purple,” earned critical acclaim in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” and produced and acted in the Academy Award-winning film “Selma.” Winfrey starred in the Emmy-nominated HBO Films production “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and most recently portrayed “Mrs. Which” in Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time” film adaptation from director Ava DuVernay.

Additionally, Winfrey is a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. In 2013, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and in 2018, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored her with the Cecil B. deMille Award.

In addition to presenting an honorary degree to Winfrey, Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler will award three additional honorary degrees. The recipients are:

  • Jairo Valverde Bermudez ’92, who was appointed the Costa Rican ambassador to Brazil in 2015. He graduated from CC with a bachelor’s degree in political economy, and went on to earn his M.A. in international relations from the International University of Japan. Ambassador Valverde represented Costa Rica at various international events, including serving as deputy head of mission during the 8th World Water Forum Ministerial Conference and deputy head of mission at the World Economic Forum for Latin America. Prior to assuming his post as ambassador to Brazil, he worked for the United Nations Development Programme and served as chief technical advisor in Mozambique. He contributed, among other things, to the UN’s positive role in support of human rights legislation such as the law to protect persons with HIV/AIDS from discrimination in the workplace.

  • Martile Rowland, an accomplished opera singer who has served as artist in residence for the CC Music Department for more than 20 years. A program director/voice teacher, she was catapulted into the international opera scene with her unexpected debut (six hours’ notice) as Queen Elizabeth in Donizetti’s “Roberto Devereux” with Opera Orchestra of New York in Carnegie Hall. Her efforts as founder/artistic director and producer of Opera Theatre of the Rockies afford her the opportunity to focus on the award-winning Opera Theatre Goes to School, the Pikes Peak Opera League, and the training of young artists. Her passion as a voice teacher earned her Classical Singer magazine’s 2006 Teacher of the Year Award. In 2014, the Pikes Peak Arts Council honored Rowland as the recipient of the Eve Tilley Lifetime Achievement Award.

  • France Winddance Twine, an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma and professor of sociology and documentary filmmaker at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Twine, a nationally prominent ethnographer and feminist race theorist, has published 70 scholarly and artistic works, including 10 books. Her recent publications include “Outsourcing the Womb” and “Girls with Guns: Firearms, Feminism and Militarism.” Twine’s field research spans Brazil, Britain and the United States, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

CC Professor of English and Nancy Bryson and C. William Schlosser Professor in the Arts Jane Hilberry will give the Baccalaureate address at 3 p.m., Saturday, May 18, in Shove Memorial Chapel. Members of the senior class vote upon the Baccalaureate speaker, and in nominating Hilberry, one student remarked, “I have seen her greatly transform students in her classroom from believing they had no creative skills to making elaborate projects, to feeling more fulfilled in their personal lives, to feeling like a more whole person.” They describe her as “a truly gifted professor capable of teaching through inspiration and really testing students to realize their full potential.”

Baccalaureate is open to students and their two guests; however, the address will be live-streamed. The Baccalaureate tradition provides a quiet, intimate opportunity to reflect on the rite of passage of graduation, hear from faculty members, and enjoy students’ talents.