- Announced at Senior Class Breakfast: civil rights icon John Lewis will deliver the 2018 Commencement address May 20
- Other honorary degree recipients: Anthony S. Fauci, Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto (CAS’84), Vibha Bakshi (COM’93,’96), and Zhang Yimou
- Metcalf teaching award winners revealed and Senior Class Gift update delivered
Civil rights icon John Lewis, a member of the US House of Representatives since 1987, will deliver the 145th Commencement address on Sunday, May 20, on Nickerson Field.
BU President Robert A. Brown announced Lewis as the Commencement speaker at Thursday’s Class of 2018 Senior Breakfast at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom, where more than 2,500 soon-to-be graduates noshed on tarts, sausages, scones, muffins, and fruit.
Lewis (D-Ga.) will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. Brown also named this year’s other honorary degree recipients: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony S. Fauci, Doctor of Science; San Juan, P.R., mayor and activist Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto (CAS’84), Doctor of Laws; filmmaker and journalist Vibha Bakshi (COM’93,’96), Doctor of Humane Letters; and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Zhang Yimou, Doctor of Humane Letters. Cruz will deliver this year’s Baccalaureate speech on Commencement morning at Marsh Chapel. Yasmin Younis (COM’18) was announced as this year’s student speaker.
Brown also revealed the winners of the University’s highest teaching honors. This year the top honor, the Metcalf Cup and Prize, goes to Brooke Blower, a College of Arts Sciences associate professor of history. Elizabeth Co, a CAS senior lecturer in biology, and James A. Wolff, a School of Public Health associate professor of global health, are the recipients of the Metcalf Awards for Excellence in Teaching. The three faculty members will be honored at the Commencement ceremony.
Born the son of sharecroppers in Jim Crow Alabama, the 78-year-old Lewis was a major leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, participated in Freedom Rides, organized voter registration drives, was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and gave a keynote address at the 1963 March on Washington. He headed up the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. The march ended with peaceful protesters brutally attacked by police officers, leaving him with a fractured skull. The incident garnered headlines worldwide and helped lead to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, Lewis has remained an advocate of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he was active in the Field Foundation, the Southern Regional Council, and the Voter Education Project and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct the ACTION federal volunteer agency.
He has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1986.
Fauci is one of the world’s most influential and accomplished scientist-physicians and has greatly contributed to the understanding of HIV and AIDS throughout the world.
He has directed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health since 1984, where he oversees extensive research on infectious diseases and diseases of the immune system. He is also chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation—a field he helped pioneer—where he has made countless important discoveries related to immune-mediated and infectious diseases. Fauci has advised five US presidents on HIV/AIDS as well as several other domestic and global health issues. He is a recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other honors.
Cruz first gained international attention last September in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the worst natural disaster to hit Puerto Rico and the Commonwealth of Dominica. While mobilizing the island’s scant remaining resources, she advocated relentlessly on behalf of the Puerto Rican people, facing down government bureaucracies that were often inefficient and seemed at times uncaring. Her repeated insistence that “This is not about politics; this is about saving lives,” resulted in many nongovernmental organizations and private companies supporting the recovery effort.
The BU alum is a former member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives and is an active advocate for immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the deaf community, children with functional diversity, and those who have struggled with gender-based violence. She was recently named to Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2018” list. For her humanitarian work, Cruz has been recognized with the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center’s Humanitarian Leadership Award and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Humanitarian Award.
In Bakshi’s 2015 film Daughters of Mother India, the filmmaker and journalist shone a light on gender violence in India. In 2017 the Creative Index named the documentary the Most Awarded Social Campaign in the World. It also won the Best Film on Social Issues at the National Film Awards, India’s highest film honor, as well as earning two Cannes Lion nominations.
Two earlier socially conscious films by Bakshi—Too Hot Not to Handle, an HBO documentary about climate change, and Terror at Home, part of the Emmy-winning Stop the Violence Against Women campaign—have also met with wide acclaim. Her latest film is Sons of India—Crossing the Fault Lines, a recently premiered sequel to Daughters of Mother India. She describes the new film as focusing on the boys and men “who will change the narrative of masculinity” and, she hopes, further change the culture of gender violence in India. Bakshi cofounded V2 Film Design, where she produces and directs films for clients ranging from the Taj Hotels and Resorts to the New York Nets basketball team.
Yimou is a leading Chinese filmmaker who has earned international kudos and commercial success. After beginning his career as a cinematographer and actor, he made his directorial debut in 1987 with Red Sorghum, followed by Ju Dou in 1990—the first Chinese film nominated for an Academy Award for Foreign Language Film—and Raise the Red Lantern in 1991. He has also directed two operas, Turandot and The First Emperor, and a ballet adaptation of Raise the Red Lantern. Six of his films have been nominated for Oscars in various categories and five have been nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture–Foreign Language. Yimou has also received several lifetime achievement awards.
His most famous productions were the dramatic opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He directed the Beijing portion of the handover ceremony at the close of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and he will helm the closing ceremony for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Find more information about Commencement on the Commencement website.