Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, an award-winning composer, lyricist, writer, and actor, will deliver this year’s commencement address, President Michael Roth announced in an email on Wednesday, Jan. 21. Miranda, as well as Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum ’75 and Michael P. Price, will receive an honorary degree at the University’s 183rd Commencement on May 24.
In his email to the University, Roth emphasized Miranda’s well-known Tony- and Grammy-winning “In The Heights,” a Broadway show that first appeared in 2000 at the ’92 Theater at the University. This musical received four 2008 Tony Awards and was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Eury German ’16, who played the lead role of Usnavi in the “In The Heights” production at Wesleyan in the fall of 2014, expressed how delighted he is that Miranda is receiving this acknowledgement.
“It’s nice the arts get recognition [and] incredible that a Broadway, Tony-Award winning show that has brought so much life into Latino families is being recognized,” German said. “[It is great to have] someone…tell such a familiar story of the immigrant Latino family and its generations along with the struggle we go through in this country while at the same time subtly giving light to the issues and hardships of gentrification and what it does to poor black [and] Latino communities.”
Tatum, who has served as the ninth president of Spelman College since 2002, is recognized as a leading educator of women of African descent, an expert on race relations, and a leader in higher education. In 2005, she was awarded the Brock International Prize for her leadership in the field. According to Tatum, Roth invited her last year to come back for an honorary degree, but she was unable to attend.
“We agreed then that I would save the date for the 2015 commencement,” Tatum wrote in an email to The Argus. “As it happens, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of my own graduation from Wesleyan (Class of 1975), so it is especially meaningful to me to receive my honorary degree this year with the Class of 2015.”
Upon receiving the news of this honorary degree, Tatum said that she was deeply honored. She said that if she could give one piece of advice to students at the University, it would be to expect the unexpected.
“When I graduated from Wesleyan, I had a plan: to become a clinical psychologist and work as a therapist,” Tatum wrote. “I did that and so much more that I never anticipated. I never expected to be a college president or a noted author and speaker on issues of race, nor would I have thought that these were even desirable options when I was a college student, yet the choices I made when the opportunities came to pursue new challenges led me to a path of leadership that has been tremendously gratifying on many levels.”
As the longtime executive director of Goodspeed Musicals, Price will be receiving the third honorary degree. He is also the recipient of honorary doctorates in fine arts from Connecticut College and the University of Hartford. Price served as executive director of Goodspeed Musicals for 46 years and was responsible for overseeing the artistic and business affairs of the company.
When Price stepped down from his position of executive director in 2014, he expressed his gratitude to the Jan. 10, 2014, edition of Playbill.
“I have had the honor and the privilege of leading Goodspeed Musicals for more than 45 years but believe with my whole heart, that the time has come to pass the reins onto someone new who will lead the institution into its next phase,” Price said to Playbill. “The greatest joy is working with the most incredible theatrical team ever assembled, a team that together will take Goodspeed to even greater heights.”
Students, graduating seniors, alumni, and families alike will witness the distribution of these honorary degrees at commencement on May 24, 2015.