Announcing the 2019 Commencement and Baccalaureate Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
I am honored to announce that Oprah Winfrey will give this year’s Commencement address. Ms. Winfrey is a global media leader, producer, and actress. She has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired figures today. Ms. 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.” Ms. 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. Ms. Winfrey is also a dedicated philanthropist. During a December 2002 visit with Nelson Mandela, she pledged to build a school in South Africa and has contributed more than $200 million toward providing education for academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. Graduates of the school have continued on to higher education both in South Africa and at colleges and universities around the world. Additionally, Ms. 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. In 2018, she was honored with the Cecil B. deMille Award by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
I am also pleased that Professor of Creative Studies and Nancy Bryson and C. William Schlosser Professor in the Arts Jane Hilberry has agreed to give the Baccalaureate address. Professor Hilberry graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College with a bachelor’s degree in English. She earned a master’s degree in literature and creative writing, as well as her Ph.D. in Medieval and Renaissance literature, at Indiana University before joining the Colorado College faculty in 1988. Professor Hilberry co-developed and taught for a decade in the Art of the Executive Leader program at Canada’s Banff Centre. Her books of poems include "Still the Animals Enter" and "Body Painting," which won the Colorado Book Award for Poetry. Deeply interested in fostering students’ creativity, Professor Hilberry has introduced a number of new creativity courses at Colorado College, including Creative Process: The Moving Line, which she co-teaches with Buddhist calligrapher Barbara Bash. In nominating Professor Hilberry to be Baccalaureate speaker, 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.”
Also, on the recommendation of the Academic Events Committee and with the approval of the Board of Trustees, the college will award honorary degrees to Ms. Winfrey and the following individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their fields:
Jairo Valverde Bermudez ’92 is the current ambassador of Costa Rica to Brazil, appointed in February 2015. He graduated from CC with a bachelor’s degree in political economy, and later went on to earn his M.A. in international relations from the International University of Japan. Prior to assuming his post as ambassador to Brazil, he worked for the United Nations Development Programme. Ambassador Valverde 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. As ambassador, he resolved his country’s longest standing bilateral issue with Brazil when the latter removed Costa Rica from its list of fiscal havens. Among his many diplomatic roles, Ambassador Valverde has served as deputy head of mission during the Eighth World Water Forum Ministerial Conference (2018), and as deputy head of mission at the World Economic Forum for Latin America in Sao Paulo. He successfully negotiated with Faber-Castell Brazil the donation of their manufacturing facilities in Costa Rica for the establishment of an immigration center that will guarantee humanitarian treatment of migrants and refugees.
Martile Rowland is an accomplished opera singer and instructor who debuted as Queen Elizabeth in Donizetti’s “Roberto Devereux” with Opera Orchestra of New York in Carnegie Hall. In the years that followed, Ms. Rowland sang leading roles in the world’s most prestigious opera houses including the New York City Opera, Opera de Nice, Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro’s National Theatre, Frankfurt Opera, and many others. She founded Opera Theatre of the Rockies in 1998 and has served as artistic director for 20 seasons. She also created the award-winning Opera Theatre Goes to School as an outreach/education arm of Opera Theatre that has brought opera performances to thousands of area students and their teachers. With support from Colorado College, Ms. Rowland founded the Vocal Arts Festival, an intensive training and performance that has served as a training ground for singers across the United States, Asia, and Europe, with graduates performing world-wide. Her passion as a voice teacher for hundreds of young professional opera singers has earned her Classical Singer magazine’s 2006 Teacher of the Year Award. In 2014, she was honored by the Pikes Peak Arts Council as the recipient of the Eve Tilley Lifetime Achievement Award, and received Lifetime Achievement honors from the Pikes Peak Opera League in 2018. Ms. Rowland has served as artist-in-residence for the Colorado College Music Department for more than 20 years.
France Winddance Twine, Ph.D. is a professor of sociology and documentary filmmaker at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. Dr. Twine earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. A nationally prominent ethnographer and feminist race theorist, she has published 70 scholarly and artistic works including 10 books. Her recent publications include “Outsourcing the Womb” (Routledge, 2015) and “Girls with Guns: Firearms, Feminism and Militarism” (Routledge, 2012). Dr. Twine’s field research spans Brazil, Britain, and the United States, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. She is the former deputy editor of the American Sociological Review, the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association. She serves on the international editorial boards of Sociology and the official journal of the British Sociological Association, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. Dr. Twine is currently working on a transnational project examining gestational surrogacy.
I look forward to honoring these individuals, along with our graduating seniors, at this year’s Commencement on Sunday, May 19, on Tava Quad.