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Commencement May 12 to feature Maya Angelou

Kesha Green, News Bureau
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 131st commencement of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be held in two ceremonies May 12 at the Assembly Hall, 1800 S. First St., Champaign.

The speaker at both ceremonies will be Maya Angelou, an acclaimed poet, novelist, educator, civil rights activist and recipient of the National Medal of Arts. Angelou and four others will receive honorary degrees at the ceremonies.

At the 10:30 a.m. ceremony, candidates in the colleges of Applied Life Studies, Communications, Law, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine; the Institute of Aviation; the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations; the School of Social Work; and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science will receive degrees.

Candidates in the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Commerce and Business Administration; Education; Engineering; and Fine and Applied Arts will receive their degrees at the 2 p.m. ceremony. WILL-AM (580) will provide on-air and online coverage of the 2 p.m. ceremony through live audio streaming on its Web site (

Doors will open at 9:30 for the morning ceremony and at 1 for the afternoon ceremony. After all students and their guests are seated, the remaining seats will be available to the public. Shuttle buses also will stop at various locations on campus, including Assembly Hall, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All students who have earned bachelor's, master's, doctoral and professional degrees and advanced certificates during the preceding year are honored at the campus's annual commencement.

Angelou is well known for addressing issues of race and class in her poetry and books. She is best known for her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (1970) and her poetry collections "I Shall Not Be Moved" (1990) and "Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems For Women" (1995). She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for poetry, for "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie." The St. Louis native became only the second poet to recite an original work at a presidential inauguration. Angelou read "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration.

Angelou, 74, is also a playwright, director and actress. In 1973, she performed in the play "Look Away," for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. She received a 1977 Emmy nomination for her portrayal of grandmother Nyo Boto in Alex Haley’s "Roots" mini-series. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented her with a spoken-word Grammy for "Phenomenal Woman" in 1995. A member of the Director's Guild of America, Angelou also has produced six plays, including "And Still I Rise" (1976) for the Oakland Ensemble Theater.

Angelou's civil activism extends beyond her writings and performances. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. appointed her northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1959. She served as an ambassador for UNICEF International in 1996. She is a member of several service committees including the W.E.B. Du Bois Foundation in Massachusetts. In 1981, she was appointed to a lifetime position as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.

Angelou will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Also scheduled to join Angelou in receiving honorary degrees:

Peter Doherty, chairman of the immunology department at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., will receive a doctor of science degree. Doherty shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for medicine after helping discover a fundamental characteristic of T cell immune responses. He has continued his research during the last three decades, becoming an international leader on the immunobiology of viral infections.

Sheldon Hackney, a former University of Pennsylvania president, will receive an doctor of letters degree for his leadership in higher education and public service. Hackney is a historian of the American South, distinguished research university leader and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He directed the University of Pennsylvania’s restructuring process in the 1980s, establishing a more national and international base. He also increased the university's minority enrollment, research sponsorship and endowments. Hackney has served on numerous boards and organizations ranging from the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities to the Consortium on Financing Higher Education. Hackney is a history professor at Penn.

Agnes Gund, the president of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, will receive a doctor of arts degree. A 25-year veteran of the arts, Gund is best known for her philanthropy and as founder of Studio in a School, a program that employs young artists to teach art to New York public school children. Former President Clinton awarded Gund the National Medal of Arts in 1997 for her efforts to make art accessible to everyone.

Stanley O. Ikenberry, who will receive a doctor of university administration degree, is a University of Illinois Regent Professor and president emeritus. During his tenure as president from 1979 to 1995, Ikenberry consolidated the Chicago Circle and Medical Center campuses into the University of Illinois at Chicago, added the Springfield campus and established state-of-the-art facilities such as the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. He served as president of the American Council on Education, the nation’s principal higher education association, and led the development and passage of the Clinton administration’s Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits.

The UI Alumni Association will present three Alumni Achievement Awards at the commencement ceremonies. Receiving the awards:

Jerry Hadley, a Grammy Award-winning opera singer, is widely recognized as the paramount American tenor of his generation. As a popular leading man, Hadley is renowned for his interpretations of a vast cross-section of the operatic repertoire, as well as for his ventures into Broadway, operetta and popular music. His musical collaborators have ranged from Leonard Bernstein and James Levine to Paul McCartney and Stephen Sondheim. He earned a master’s of music degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Music in 1977.

Sophie Lau Leung is the director of several large textile conglomerates, including Bay Apparel Ltd., and serves on the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. As chair of the Women’s Commission, she promotes the interests of women in Hong Kong and the strengthening of linkages with women's organizations overseas. She also is widely recognized for her contributions to the development and implementation of the Hong Kong health-care system. Leung is the founder and chair of the Young Entrepreneurs Development Council, which cultivates entrepreneurial and leadership qualities in young people. She received a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1969 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Steven L. Miller is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Houston's Shell Oil Co., one of America's major oil and natural gas producers and petrochemical manufacturers. Most recently, he was managing director of Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. and group managing director of the Royal Dutch Shell Group of companies. Miller also serves on the board of directors for Applied Materials Inc., a leading global supplier to the semiconductor industry. He is a member of the Texas Governor's Business Council, chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership, a trustee of Rice University and a director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy, and chairman-elect of the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast. He received a degree in chemical engineering in 1967 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Howard C. Humphrey, a 1959 Commerce and Business Administration graduate and retired chairman of the Franklin Life Insurance Co., will receive the Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award for his longtime commitment to Illinois through volunteer and philanthropic efforts. He has sponsored seminars on behalf of the university to assist foreign insurance professionals, supported the master of business administration program, raised funds for athletic scholarships, and provided corporate underwriting for WILL. In 1983 he was an executive-in-residence for the College of Commerce and Business Administration and is a frequent guest speaker on its behalf.

Among other planned activities in honor of the graduating class, the Illinois Symphonic Band will give a free concert for graduates, candidates and their guests at 8 p.m. May 11 in the Great Hall of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana. Tickets are not required.

All graduating students and their guests are invited to a reception hosted by university President James J. Stukel and Nancy Cantor, chancellor of the Urbana campus, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. May 12 in the gardens of the president’s house, 711 W. Florida Ave., Urbana. Academic attire is encouraged.

Many individual UI units have scheduled additional commencement ceremonies. All take place on May 12, except as noted:


Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences – for undergraduate degrees, 9:30 a.m., Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; for graduate degrees, 10 a.m., Recital Hall, Smith Memorial Hall, 805 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

Applied Life Studies – 9:30 a.m., May 11, Assembly Hall.

Commerce and Business Administration – departments of accountancy, business administration, economics and finance, 1:30 p.m., May 11, Assembly Hall; MBAs and Executive MBAs, 9 a.m., May 11, Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Communications – 2 p.m., Foellinger Auditorium, 709 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.
Education – 10 a.m., 100 George Huff Hall, 1206 S. Fourth St., Champaign.

Engineering – 4:30 p.m., Assembly Hall.

Law – 12:30 p.m., May 11, Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Veterinary Medicine – 1:30 p.m., Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.


Architecture – 10 a.m., Foellinger Auditorium.

Art and Design – 10 a.m., Tryon Festival Theater, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Graduate School of Library and Information Science – 1:30 p.m., Recital Hall, Smith Memorial Hall.

Life Sciences – 1:30 p.m., 100 George Huff Hall.

Music – 5:30 p.m., Recital Hall, Smith Memorial Hall.

Social Work – 4 p.m., Illini Rooms, Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana.


Chemical Engineering – 1:30 p.m., 100 Noyes Laboratory, 505 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

Chemistry– 1:30 p.m., Tryon Festival Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Economics (LAS) and Finance (LAS) – 11 a.m., May 11, Foellinger Auditorium.

Humanities I – 1:30 p.m., May 11, Foellinger Auditorium.

Humanities II – 4 p.m., May 11, Foellinger Auditorium.

Landscape Architecture – 10:30 a.m., Sunken Garden, Allerton Park, Route 2, Monticello; in case of rain, Miller School Gymnasium, 100 W. Jefferson St., Monticello.

Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (LAS) – 4 p.m., Tryon Festival Theater, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Physics and Astronomy – 2 p.m., May 11, 151 Loomis Laboratory of Physics, 1110 W. Green St., Urbana.

Psychology – 4:30 p.m., Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Social Sciences – 4 p.m., May 11, Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Theater – 10 a.m., Colwell Playhouse, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Urban and Regional Planning – 10 a.m., Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.


Aviation – 2 p.m., Illini Union Ballroom, Second Floor.

Labor and Industrial Relations – 3 p.m., May 11, 141 Wohlers Hall, 1206 S. Sixth St., Champaign.


African-American Cultural Program – 6:30 p.m., May 11, 100 George Huff Hall.

International Master of Science Programs – 4 p.m., May 11, Smith Memorial Hall.

La Casa Cultural Latina – 7 p.m., May 11, Foellinger Auditorium.


Phi Beta Kappa – 7:30 p.m., May 10, Illini Union Ballroo


All-Service ROTC Commissioning Ceremony – 1 p.m., May 13, Foellinger Auditorium.