THE NEW SCHOOL HONORS GLENN LIGON, HILTON ALS, CAMILO JOSÈ Vergara, nancy lublin, and michael gellert with Honorary Degrees at 82nd Commencement Exercises

The ceremony took place at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens

The New School celebrated its 82nd commencement exercises. Photo / Ben Ferrari

NEW YORK, NY, May 19, 2018 —The New School celebrated its 2018 graduating class and honored preeminent multimedia artist Glenn Ligon, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Hilton Als, photographer and documentarian Camilo José Vergara, social entrepreneur and Crisis Text Line CEO Nancy Lublin; and philanthropist, Windcrest Partners co-founder, and longtime New School Trustee Michael Gellert with honorary degrees at its 82nd commencement exercises.

New School President David E. Van Zandt presided over the ceremony, which took place at the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens. This year marked the second consecutive year that The New School held its commencement exercises at the legendary tennis venue. The ceremony can be viewed on Livestream.

Speaking before a crowd of 2,000-plus graduates, their friends and family, and faculty and staff Van Zandt praised the university’s graduating class for living The New School mission: using their “creativity and scholarship to address complex issues and work toward positive social change.”

“You’ve confronted climate change, addressed social and economic equality, and advocated for more open and inclusive immigration policies,” he added. “On our own campus in recent months, you’ve demonstrated resilience in the face of a building fire, spoken out on behalf of workers, and worked to promote a more inclusive campus environment. Please take that energy and drive with you wherever you go.”

Dispensing with the formalities and extended speeches, the honorary degree recipients took turns delivering brief, impactful talks that get to the heart of their advice to The New School's graduating class. The following is a selection of quotes from the speakers:

Michael Gellert’s daughter, Kate Gellert, recounts her father’s arrival in the United States

May 21, 1938, was the day my father’s family made the decision to leave their home in Prague. The Germans had marched into Austria and the consequences of what that meant started to become clear. Three years later, in 1941, he and his family all arrived safely here in the United States and set about creating their new lives. The first step on that path was education. “Education is the foundation of everything.” That simple statement was said by my father on the 80th anniversary of the University in Exile, the origin of today’s New School.

Glenn Ligon, in reference to his permanent, site-specific work, For Comrades and Lovers, on view at The New School’s University Center

When I was asked to prepare a statement, I thought, “The words that I wanted to say have already been said in neon lavender and they vibrate through the air from the past to the present and hopefully vibrates in whatever future awaits us.

[caption id="attachment_6558" align="alignnone" width="952"] Photo / Ben Ferrari.[/caption]

Hilton Als on taking classes at The New School in French art and literature of the 19th century and a survey course in Chinese art

In thinking about those classes recently, I think what I come away with from my time at The New School and all my studies is a deeper understanding of nuance. Just now, we live in a world of absolutes, of sharp divisions between the good and the bad, and some of that is warranted, God knows ... But we can’t make up for that rageous literalness and cowardice of one party by discounting what we thinkers and makers are especially good at: finding and unearthing the complications of human experience.

Camilo José Vergara on coming to New York City in 1969

Pursue failure with all your heart and soul and it’s going to get you success. You get to understand it and talk to others about it and then what you do becomes something that maybe isn’t a failure.

Nancy Lublin asks New School graduates to take their shoes and socks off

Look down at your feet. And look at your neighbor's feet. Here’s what I know about your feet: they’ve worked hard.

Here’s what I know about this New School education. It was weird and amazing. That’s why I’d like to hire you. Here’s another thing I know. Outside of those doors, it’s also weird and amazing. You were born with these two feet and they’ve brought you here. Today you have an education that no one can take away from you. My request is to stay weird and be amazing.

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. Learn more at


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Media Contacts:

Scott Gargan,
The New School
212-229-5667 x 3794

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