Thelma Golden, Terence Blanchard, Dr. William A. "Sandy" Darity, Jr., Winona LaDuke, and Dr. John Nkengasong Named Honorary Degree Recipients by The New School

Thelma Golden to deliver keynote address at the university's 86th Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 20 at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens

Clockwise from top left: Thelma Golden, Winona LaDuke, William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., Ali Bebry, Dr. John Nkengasong, Jon May, Terence Blanchard

New York, April 18, 2022 — Director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem Thelma Golden, six-time GRAMMY winner Terence Blanchard, director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., economist and environmental activist Winona LaDuke, and director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. John Nkengasong will receive honorary degrees during The New School’s 86th commencement exercises on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 11:30 am EDT.

Honoree Thelma Golden will provide the keynote address to the university’s 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.

New School President Dwight A. McBride 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 university’s s 2022 Commencement Exercises return to the legendary venue  after a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic.

“I am proud that The New School continues to be a place where critical, bold, and courageous thinkers, makers, and doers converge,” said President McBride. “We are thrilled to honor Thelma Golden, Terence Blanchard, Dr. William A. "Sandy" Darity, Jr., Winona LaDuke, and Dr. John Nkengasong — inspiring individuals who, through their creative vision, public service, and activism, are challenging the status quo and doing the work that is essential to a democratic society.”

The honorees are:

  • Thelma Golden is the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, the world’s leading institution devoted to visual art by people of African descent. Golden began her career in 1985 as an intern at the Studio Museum. In 1988, she joined the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she launched her influential curatorial practice. In 2000, she returned to the Studio Museum as deputy director for Exhibitions and Programs, a position in which she worked closely with director Lowery Stokes Sims. She succeeded Dr. Sims as director in 2005. Under her leadership, the Studio Museum has gained renown as a global leader in the exhibition of contemporary art, a center for innovative education, and a cultural anchor of the Harlem community. Golden was appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House by President Obama in 2010 and in 2015 joined the Barack Obama Foundation’s Board of Directors. She serves on the boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Crystal Bridges Museum.
  • Terence Blanchard is one of jazz’s most prominent trumpeters and a composer whose beautiful, provocative music inspires and defies expectations. He is an Oscar nominee, a six-time GRAMMY winner, and a 2018 United States Artists fellow. In 2021, Blanchard's second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, based on the memoir of celebrated author and New York Times columnist Charles Blow, premiered at The Metropolitan Opera, opening the 2021–2022 New York season. The opera was the first by an African American composer to be performed at The Met in its 138-year history. Blanchard’s music has provided an eloquent backdrop for narratives of American tragedies. He has composed the scores for most of Spike Lee’s films, including the documentary When the Levees Broke, about the devastation of Blanchard’s hometown of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina; the epic Malcolm X; and the latest of the director’s films, Da 5 Bloods. He received Oscar and BAFTA nominations for his original score for Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and won a GRAMMY for Best Instrumental Composition for “Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil),” a track from the film. Blanchard’s discography comprises nearly 25 releases, including his most recent album, Absence, performed with his quintet, The E-Collective, and the acclaimed Turtle Island Quartet.
  • William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr. is the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics and the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University. He has served as the chair of the Department of African and African American Studies and was the founding director of the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality at Duke. Darity’s research focuses on inequality along racial, class, and ethnic lines; stratification economics; schooling and the racial achievement gap; North–South theories of trade and development; skin shade and labor market outcomes; the economics of reparations; the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution; the history of economics; and the social and psychological effects of unemployment. Darity is the 2022 W.E.B. Du Bois Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. His most recent book, co-authored with A. Kirsten Mullen, is From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century (2020). The book won the inaugural 2021 Book Prize from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the 2021 Lillian Smith Book Award, a 2021 American Book Fest Award in the Social Change category, and the 2020 Ragan Old North State Award for Nonfiction, presented by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.
  • Winona LaDuke is an economist, environmental activist, author, hemp farmer, grandmother, and two-time Green Party vice presidential candidate, alongside Ralph Nader. Her work focuses on rural development, environmental justice, and economic, food, and energy sovereignty. LaDuke lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota and leads the organizations Honor the Earth (co-founded with the Indigo Girls 28 years ago), the Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute, Akiing, and Winona’s Hemp. These organizations develop culture-based sustainable development strategies using renewable energy and sustainable food systems. LaDuke is an international leader on climate and environmental justice and renewable energy. She also advocates for the protection of Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic engineering. In 2021, LaDuke was named to Forbes’ inaugural 50 Over 50–Women of Impact list. In 1994, she was nominated by TIME magazine as one of America’s 50 most promising leaders under 40. She received the 1996 Thomas Merton Award, the 1997 BIHA Community Service Award, the Ann Bancroft Award for Women’s Leadership Fellowship, and the 1998 Reebok Human Rights Award. In 1998, Ms. Magazine named her Woman of the Year.
  • Dr. John Nkengasong is the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency of the African Union. In early 2020, he was appointed by the World Health Organization director-general as a special envoy on COVID-19 Preparedness and Response. Dr. Nkengasong was awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2020 Global Goalkeeper Award for his efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. In 2021, he was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Fortune’s 50 Great Leaders, and Bloomberg Businessweek’s 50 Influential People. Dr. Nkengasong has also  received the Sheppard Award and the William C. Watson Jr. Medal of Excellence, the highest honor awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He received the Knight of Honour Medal from the government of Cote d’Ivoire, was knighted in 2017 as the Officer of Loin by the president of Senegal, and was knighted in 2018 by the government of Cameroon.Dr. Nkengasong is the former acting deputy principal director of the Center for Global Health and chief of the International Laboratory Branch, Division of Global HIV and TB, of the CDC.

The student speakers are:

  • Ali Bebry (she/her) is graduating from Lang with degrees in Contemporary Music and Psychology, with her primary research interests being music and affect regulation as well as music embodiment. She is also the Student Representative of the school's Psychology Club, a songwriter, and a full spectrum doula. Ali loves to cook, spend time in the sun, and explore the city and its views.
  • Jon May is an Atlanta native majoring in Media Management, with a minor in Transmedia Studies. Jon is a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU), where he majored in business administration, with a marketing concentration. While at FAMU, a historically black university, he was exposed to a broad and exciting curriculum focused on developing well-rounded leaders. Jon currently serves as a second lieutenant in the Air National Guard; he previously served in the United States Air Force. Jon is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated. Upon graduation, Jon hopes to pursue a career in producing to help underrepresented groups tell their unique stories.

Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.




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The New School
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