Telfar Clemens, Masih Alinejad, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and Jennifer Finney Boylan Named Honorary Degree Recipients by The New School

Author and LGBTQIA+ Community Activist Jennifer Finney Boylan to deliver keynote address at the university's 87th Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 19 at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens

New York, April 13, 2023—Fashion Designer Telfar Clemens; Journalist and Women’s Rights Activist Masih Alinejad; Composer, Singer, and Visual Artist Cécile McLorin Salvant; and Author and LGBTQIA+ Community Activist Jennifer Finney Boylan will receive honorary degrees during The New School’s 87th commencement exercises on Friday, May 19, 2023 at 11:30 am EDT.
Honoree Jennifer Finney Boylan 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. “True to our founders' vision, The New School continues to evolve to meet the challenges of the global economy, preparing students as scholars, global citizens and changemakers,” said President McBride. “We are thrilled to honor Masih Alinejad, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Telfar Clemons, and Cécile McLorin Salvant—inspiring individuals who, through their social activism, creative vision, and public service, have worked to address pressing social issues and challenge the status quo in ways that well represent the values of The New School.“ 
The honorees are:
Jennifer Finney Boylan
is a bestselling author, LGBTQIA community activist and the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University. A novelist, memoirist, and short story writer, she has written 18 books, including her 2003 memoir, She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders, the first bestselling work by a transgender American. Other works include the memoir Good Boy: My Life in 7 Dogs, and the novel Mad Honey, co-authored with Jodi Picoult. She’s a former Contributing Opinion Writer for The New York Times, served as an advisor to the television series Transparent. Boylan currently serves on the Board of Trustees of PEN America, and is a member of the faculty of the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference of Middlebury College and the Sirenland Writers’ Conference in Positano, Italy. She served on the Board of Directors of GLAAD from 2011 to 2018, and was co-chair of the board from 2013-2017.
Telfar Clemens is a fashion designer and the founder of the brand TELFAR. He was born to Liberian parents in Queens. In 2005, while still a student at Pace University, he founded his label TELFAR—with the tagline “Not for you, for everyone”—producing accessible, unisex items built on the principles of fluidity and inclusivity. In 2017, he won the coveted CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, and invested its prize of $400,000 into the production of the Telfar Shopping Bag—now lovingly known as “the Bushwick Birkin” for its status as an accessible fashion icon. Clemens designed and sponsored Team Liberia’s uniforms for the 2020 Olympics. His collaboration with White Castle, designing the burger chain’s new uniform and releasing a capsule collection, donated all profits to a bail fund for minors jailed at Rikers Island. When he’s in New York City, he still lives in the family home in LeFrak City in Queens, where he started out all those years ago.
Masih Alinejad is an Iranian-American journalist, a women's rights campaigner, and the author of best-selling memoir, The Wind in My Hair. One of the most prominent and vocal figures challenging the Islamic Republic of Iran, The New York Times has described her as "The woman whose hair frightens Iran." In 2014, Alinejad launched the My Stealthy Freedom campaign against compulsory hijab, which became the largest civil disobedience movement in the history of Islamic Republic. A former parliamentary journalist, she exposed a payment scandal in the Iranian parliament in 2005 and was subsequently banned from reporting on parliamentary affairs. She was put on former President Ahmadinejad regime’s enemies list for her articles critical of him, and was forced to leave Iran in 2009 after the crackdown on protests against the disputed presidential elections. Today, Alinejad continues to write and she hosts Tablet, a satirical weekly show on VOA. She has received many honors, including sharing the 2022 Oxi Courage award with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the 2022 Washington Institute’s Statesman-Scholar award, and American Jewish Committee’s moral courage award. 
Cécile McLorin Salvant is a composer, singer, and visual artist, who was described by the late Jessye Norman as “a unique voice supported by an intelligence and full-fledged musicality, which light up every note she sings.” She was born and raised in Miami, FL to a French mother and Haitian father, and started classical piano studies at five years old, sang in a children’s choir at eight, and began classical voice lessons as a teenager. An accomplished musician, she won the Thelonious Monk competition in 2010 and, in 2020, received the MacArthur fellowship and the Doris Duke Artist Award. She has been nominated for five Grammy Awards and won three times for Best Jazz Vocal Album for “The Window”, “Dreams and Daggers”, and “For One to Love.” Salvant’s latest work, Ogresse, is a musical fable that blends the genres of folk, baroque, jazz, and country, and explores fetishism, hunger, diaspora, cycles of appropriation, lies, othering, and ecology. Created as an homage to the Erzulie and Sara Baartman, Salvant wrote the story, lyrics, and music. It is currently in development to become an animated feature-length film, which Salvant will direct. In addition, Salvant makes large-scale textile drawings, and her visual art can be found at Picture Room in Brooklyn, NY.
The student speakers are:
Kamilah Tibbitts (she/her) is graduating from the Schools of Public Engagement with a degree in Media Studies with a concentration in media and social change. She is the Co-Chair of the Student Support Community working group and a member of the University Strategic Planning Committee which supports the development of the university’s long term strategic plan. Kamilah is highly engaged in Bed Stuy’s mutual aid program Bed Stuy Strong and an active member of the Brooklyn Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Kamilah is a passionate, entrepreneurial, and influential thought leader with proven expertise of fusing creative insight with digital transformation to drive business growth.

Ruby Justice Thelot (he/him) is graduating from Parsons School of Design with an MFA in Design and Technology. He is a designer, artist, and cyberethnographer. Ruby is the founder of the creative research and design studio 13101401 inc. His work focuses on the interactions between humans and artificial intelligence, the metaverse and the implications of ‘being-on-line’. Originally from Montreal, Canada, Ruby has given talks and shown works in Tallinn, Berlin and Abuja, amongst other places.

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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