Press Release: 2008 CUNY Graduate Center Commencement

Time and Place:

Thursday, May 22, 11 a.m., Manhattan Center, 311 West 34th Street
(admission by invitation/ticket only, not open to the general public)

William P. Kelly, President of the Graduate Center and scholar of Early American Republic literature and culture.

Honorary Degrees:  
Doctor of Musical Arts
to Ornette Coleman: renowned saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter, and composer; a major innovator of the free jazz movement.

Doctor of Humane Letters to William G. Bowen: President Emeritus, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; former president of Princeton University.

Doctor of Humane Letters to Edward Hirsch: President, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; distinguished poet and best-selling author.

358 Doctorates and 60 Master's degrees to be awarded.

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs, as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to more than thirty interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns.  Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at

Participant Bios:

William P. Kelly is president of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  From 1998 through June 2005, he served as the Graduate Center’s provost and senior vice president, a tenure that was marked by the recruitment of a remarkable cadre of internationally renowned scholars to the school’s faculty.  A distinguished American literature scholar and an expert on the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Dr. Kelly is the author of Plotting America’s Past: Fenimore Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales (Southern Illinois University Press).

Ornette Coleman, saxophonist, composer, and jazz visionary, burst into the public consciousness in 1959 with the legendary Coleman Quartet.  Through fifty years of performances and over forty recordings—including Something Else, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Beauty is a Rare Thing, Prime Time/Time Design, Virgin Beauty, Tone Dialing, Sound Grammar, and Skies of America—he has pursued a path of creative freedom without boundaries, creating new forms of expression at the cutting edge of jazz and American music.  Among the accolades he has received are a Pulitzer Prize in Music, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  
Edward Hirsch is a poet, teacher, and current president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.  His body of work as a poet includes Special Orders, For the Sleepwalkers, Wild Gratitude, The Night Parade, Earthly Measures, On Love, and Lay Back in Darkness.  Through a column in the Washington Post Book World, the book How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, and readings and lectures throughout the world, he has made the joys of poetry more accessible.  He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, among other honors.
William G. Bowen is an economist, former president of Princeton, and president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. During his eighteen-year tenure as president of the foundation, his interest in the application of technology to scholarship resulted in initiatives that touch the lives of academic researchers every day.  He was a professor of economics, provost and, for sixteen years, president of Princeton University. His many books include Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education; The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions; and The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values.

Submitted on: MAY 1, 2008

Category: Press Room