Lin-Manuel Miranda to Speak at Penn’s 260th Commencement

Lin-Manuel Miranda, a 2015 MacArthur Foundation Award recipient and the Tony- and Grammy-award winning composer and lyricist of the Broadway show “In the Heights” and of “Hamilton,” a groundbreaking musical rooted in hip-hop and intertwined with R & B, jazz, and pop, will deliver the address at the 2016 University of Pennsylvania Commencement on Monday, May 16.

The announcement was made today by Vice President and University Secretary Leslie Laird Kruhly.

“We are honored to bestow our highest degree on Lin-Manuel Miranda and have him speak at Penn’s 260th Commencement,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “Miranda is one of the most innovative and stunningly brilliant artistic voices of and for our time. As a lyricist, composer, playwright and actor, he has accomplished nothing short of remaking the great American artistic form of musical theater and telling the history of our founding through the most creative, evocative and thought provoking contemporary lens. In doing so, he has woven bold stories of our lives that are transformative and provocative and inspire and challenge us to not be bound by convention. As Miranda's title character Hamilton raps, evoking Penn's own spirit: "I'm just like my country/ I'm young, scrappy and hungry/And I'm not throwing away my shot."

Miranda’s current musical success, “Hamilton,” for which he wrote the play, music and lyrics and plays the title role, opened on Broadway in 2015 following a sold-out run at New York’s Public Theater. Off-Broadway, “Hamilton” received a record-breaking 10 Lortel Awards, as well as three Outer Critic Circle Awards, eight Drama Desk Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Musical and an OBIE for Best New American Play. The Broadway cast recording of “Hamilton” has been nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award.

His “In the Heights” received a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 2009 and was a 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for drama. In 2014, Miranda received an Emmy Award with Tom Kitt for their song, “Bigger” from the 67th Annual Tony Awards.

At the Commencement ceremony, Miranda will receive an honorary doctor of arts degree. Other 2016 Penn honorary degree recipients will be Hawa Abdi, Elizabeth E. Bailey, David Brooks, Renée Fleming, Sylvester James Gates Jr., Asma Jahangir and Eric R. Kandel.

"Through their work, our exceptional class of honorees have exemplified selfless courage and public service, innovative and enduring scholarship and the compelling expression of the arts in ways that are transformative for all generations," said Andrea Mitchell, Penn trustee and chair of the Trustee Honorary Degrees Committee. "We are greatly fortunate to be able to learn by their example.”

Hawa Abdi is a Somali human rights activist and physician and Somalia’s first female gynecologist. She attended medical school in Kiev on scholarship from the Women's Committee of the Soviet Union, graduating in 1971. She earned her law degree in 1979 at Somali National University, where she later became an assistant professor of medicine. Abdi’s humanitarian efforts are credited with saving tens of thousands of lives in her homeland amid civil war, for which she received a 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nomination. What began with the founding of a one-room clinic offering obstetric services to rural women today encompasses the Hawa Abdi Village, which includes a hospital and school. She will be awarded an honorary doctor of sciences degree.

Elizabeth E. Bailey is the John C. Hower Professor Emeritus of Business Economics and Public Policy in Penn’s Wharton School. After receiving degrees from Radcliffe College and the Stevens Institute of Technology, Bailey was the first female doctoral candidate in economics at Princeton University. Her career began at Bell Laboratories, and she rose through the ranks and went on to hold many leadership roles in the corporate and public sectors. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed her as the first female commissioner of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Joining Wharton in 1991, Bailey gained renowned for research on economic regulation and deregulation, contestability theory, market structure and corporate governance and social responsibility. She will be awarded an honorary doctor of sciences degree.

Journalist, commentator and author David Brooks is both an honoree and Penn’s 2016 Baccalaureate speaker. Since 2003 he has been an op-ed columnist for The New York Times writing on a broad range of sociological, cultural, political and moral issues. He is the author of four books and for nearly two decades has appeared on “The PBS Newshour,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” During his nine-year tenure at The Wall Street Journal, Brooks was posted in Brussels and reported on Russia, the Middle East, South Africa and European affairs; he later became an op-ed editor. He has also served as a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and as a contributing editor for The Atlantic and Newsweek. He will be awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Renée Fleming is a Grammy-award winning opera and classical performing artist and National Medal of Arts recipient. Her career includes recitals spanning five continents and includes more than 240 performances at the Metropolitan Opera. She performed at President Obama’s 2009 inaugural celebration, at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, at the 2014 Super Bowl, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and at the Brandenburg Gate on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her extensive television and radio broadcast credits include the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series and “Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS. In 2010, Fleming became the first creative consultant at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She will be awarded an honorary doctor of music degree.

Sylvester James Gates Jr. is a theoretical physicist known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity and superstring theory. He is the John S. Toll Professor of Physics and the director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland at College Park. He serves on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In 2013, he received the National Medal of Science and became the first African-American physicist elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Gates is the co-author of Superspace, the first comprehensive textbook on supersymmetry. In 2009, he completed “Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality,” a DVD lecture series on the complex topic created for non-physicists. He will be awarded an honorary doctor of sciences degree.

Asma Jahangir is a human rights activist and lawyer and the founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Her work has resulted in landmark cases promoting human rights and democratic values. In 2010, she became the first woman elected as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, she has received many honors including the Millennium Peace Prize and the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. She has co-chaired the South Asia Forum for Human Rights and served as vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights. Jahangir has also acted as the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief. She will be awarded an honorary doctor of law degree.

Eric Kandel is a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist. He is a professor and director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University, having joined the College of Physicians and Surgeons there in 1974. He is also senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2000, Kandel received the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. His work has sought to illuminate the molecular mechanisms underlying learning and memory. He is an editor of Principles of Neural Science, the field’s standard textbook, now in its fifth edition. Kandel is a recipient of a National Medal of Science and a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the national science academies of Austria, France, Germany and Greece. He will be awarded an honorary doctor of sciences degree.

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