In 1973, Dr. Clemmons received a Grammy Award for a recording of “Porgy and Bess.” Dr. Clemmons was the founder and director for the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble from 1997 until 2013.
This year’s commencement speakers at NVU-Johnson and NVU-Lyndon, despite very different professional accomplishments, share a core commitment to public service.
The Johnson campus will host Dr. Francois S. Clemmons, who is best known for his 25- year role as Officer Clemmons on the popular PBS series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” With this, he became the first African American actor to have a recurring role on a children’s series.
Along with these achievements, Dr. Clemmons also has a bachelor’s in music at Oberlin College and a master’s in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as an honorary doctorate in arts from Middlebury College.
“Dr. Clemmons is an accomplished actor, playwright, author, and lecturer who has broken racial boundaries during his lifetime. His professional accomplishments, life work, and personal story align with NVU’s community values,” Director of Marketing and Communications Sylvia Plumb said in a press release. “We are very pleased that we are able to include a speaker and performer of his caliber in the ceremony.”
Dr. Clemmons’ commencement speech was filmed from the podium in Dibden Center for the Arts and will play during the virtual 2021 commencement ceremony.
The Lyndon campus will welcome Dr. Henry S. Parker to their commencement ceremony. Dr. Parker holds a Ph.D. in biological oceanography and is a professor, author and expeditioner.
His government service is extensive, formerly serving as a research manager and acting director of Homeland Security for the Agricultural Research Service of USDA.
The press release notes that “a former university professor of marine sciences, Parker has also been a U.S. Naval officer and deep-sea salvage diver, a seaweed farmer in the southern Philippines and co-leader of an expedition that discovered and recovered remains of a seventeenth-century Spanish Manila galleon.”
Dr. Parker also is an author, his first novel released by Simon and Schuster in 2017. The biological thriller “Containment” follows a group of researchers hoping to prevent the spread of a deadly artificially created tick-borne virus. Dr. Parker is also an associate adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine.
NVU President Elaine Collins noted that both speakers exemplify lives dedicated to public service through their considerable professional accomplishments. “We are thrilled to welcome these two multitalented individuals to address our graduating students at this culminating moment in their academic careers,” said Collins in the same press release. “Throughout their careers, they have demonstrated a commitment to the public good in their communities in exceptional ways, modeling a key value of our university. We are honored that our graduates have the opportunity to hear from two individuals who have attained such diverse successes at a time when our students are set to embark on their own unique journeys.”
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