Roger Williams University announces commencement plans

Local indigenous leaders will deliver commencement address, Dr. Alexander-Scott among those receiving honorary degrees

Posted 5/6/21

Roger Williams University’s commencement celebration this year will be a hybrid of in-person and remote events. Families of graduates will be allowed on campus — briefly — while the …

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Roger Williams University announces commencement plans

Local indigenous leaders will deliver commencement address, Dr. Alexander-Scott among those receiving honorary degrees

Posted

Roger Williams University’s commencement celebration this year will be a hybrid of in-person and remote events. Families of graduates will be allowed on campus — briefly — while the public and media will be excluded. However, all with be welcome to watch the speaking and honorary degree programs, which will include leaders in the indigenous, medical, and legal communities.

Over the three days of May 21, 22 and 23, Roger Williams will confer degrees to 1,200 students in the Class of 2021, along with 168 master’s degrees, one Master of Studies in law, and 152 law candidates, and also celebrate the 1,100 graduates of the Class of 2020. 

Specially designed ceremonies will feature a livestream Grad Walk, during which each student will be honored individually and have their name read as they process across the stage. Each graduate will be allowed to bring no more than two guests to campus to view their processional across the stage; graduates and their guests will be directed to depart campus in a timely way after their individual processional.

Sagamore William Guy, chief of the Pokanoket Nation, and Lorén Spears, executive director of the Tomaquag Indigenous Museum, will jointly deliver the commencement address for the Roger Williams University Class of 2020 and Class of 2021. On May 21, RWU Law graduates will hear from the Hon. Edward C. Clifton.

In addition to delivering the keynote address, Guy and Spears will also be presented with honorary degrees. Guy, whose Pokanoket name is Po Wauipi Neimpaug (“Winds of Thunder”), is the principal chief of the Pokanoket Nation, the confederation of native peoples who first greeted the Pilgrims when they arrived in New England in 1620. He is the ninth-generation great-grandson of Po Metacom, the Pokanoket leader known to the English as King Philip. Spears is the executive director of Tomaquag Museum, an award-winning Narragansett author and artist who shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She has written curriculum, poetry, and narratives for numerous publications.

“William Guy and Lorén Spears are doing the vital work of helping the public acknowledge and reconcile the untold stories of our past, while preserving and celebrating the Indigenous heritage of Rhode Island,” said RWU President Ioannis Miaoulis. “It is important to honor our local Indigenous leaders who reflect our institutional mission of ‘strengthening society’ through their commitment and life’s work to making Rhode Island a better place.”

Additionally, as part of the Class of 2021 ceremony, RWU will present an honorary degree to Rhode Island Department of Health Director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, who has executed the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A day earlier, on Friday, May 21, the School of Law will hold an in-person Grad Walk and virtual commencement ceremony for 153 students of the Class of 2021, as well as celebrate the graduates of the Class of 2020. The Honorable Edward C. Clifton, retired Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree. A civil rights and employment law attorney, Lynette Labinger, will also receive an honorary degree from the law school.

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