ANNa SUI, Ai-JEN Poo, and barbara hillary named honorary degree recipients by the new school

Honorary degree recipients will deliver short impactful speeches at the university's 81st Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 19 at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens

A festival featuring live music and entertainment will follow the ceremony

Anna Sui, Ai-jen Poo, and Barbara Hillary have been named honorary degree recipients by The New School in New York City.

NEW YORK (March 29, 2017) — Anna Sui, fashion designer; Ai-jen Poo, an activist on behalf of domestic workers and the elderly; and Barbara Hillary, an explorer and cancer survivor, who, at the age of 75, was the first African American woman to reach the North Pole, will receive honorary degrees and address graduates at The New School’s 81st commencement exercises on Friday, May 19 at 11:30 a.m.

President David E. Van Zandt will preside over the ceremony, which will take place at the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens. The New School's Commencement is the first-ever graduation ceremony — and the first-ever non-tennis event — to be held at the legendary venue. The ceremony will be broadcast live on Livestream.

Dispensing with the formalities and extended speeches, the honorary degree recipients will take turns delivering brief, impactful talks that get to the heart of their advice to The New School's graduating class.

“I am thrilled The New School is honoring Anna Sui, Ai-jen Poo, and Barbara Hillary — inspirational figures who have worked tirelessly to confront pressing social issues and challenge the status quo,” Van Zandt said.

The honorees are:

  • Anna Sui, a Parsons School of Design-educated American fashion designer known for her blend of vintage, glamour, and cutting-edge style. She has opened more than 50 boutiques in eight countries; launched successful cosmetics, fragrance, shoe, and accessory lines; and designed products for Samsung, Google, and Starbucks, among others. She also has partnered with charities, including the World Wildlife Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and the Bowery Mission, and she regularly gives lectures aimed at inspiring young people to pursue their dreams. She was named one of Time magazine's “Top 5 Fashion Icons of the Decade."

  • Ai-jen Poo, an activist on behalf of domestic workers and the elderly. As the co-founder of Domestic Workers United, Poo worked to ensure New York State passed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in 2010, a law ensuring workers’ rights to an eight-hour workday with overtime pay, guaranteed rest days, and mandated protection under the state’s human rights laws. Poo was a 2014 recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, and in 2012, she was named to Newsweek’s list of “150 Women Who Shake the World” and Time magazine’s "Time 100."
  • Barbara Hillary, an explorer, cancer survivor, and New School graduate, who, at the age of 75, was the first African American woman to reach the North Pole. After surviving lung cancer and a surgery that caused her to lose 25 percent of her breathing capacity, she decided to make her record-setting trek; five years later, she traveled to the South Pole. In addition to adventuring around the globe, Hillary founded The Peninsula magazine, a nonprofit multi-racial publication, and the Arverne Action Association, a group dedicated to improving the lives of people in the Rockaway Peninsula community. She also lectures about the dangerous effects of global climate change, which she experienced first hand during her travels.

Following the graduation ceremony, The New School will host a celebratory festival featuring live music from the university's College of Performing Arts, an interactive arts activation, a pop-up shop of New School-themed swag from The New Store, T-shirt and gown printing by the Making Center, local food trucks, a Gif Photobooth, and games, crafts, and facepainting.

The New School’s Class of 2017 is made up of more than 2,000 associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral graduates in art and design, the social sciences, the humanities, management, and the performing arts. This is the first graduating class of the MA in Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism.

Founded in 1919, The New School was born out of principles of academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. Committed to social engagement, The New School today remains in the vanguard of innovation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students challenging the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The New School welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and calendar of lectures, screenings, readings, and concerts. Through its online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.


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Media Contacts:

Scott Gargan,
The New School
212-229-5667 x 3794
[email protected]

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