Celebrating graduates and kicking off the school’s sesquicentennial.

May 2017 – Drew University will celebrate more than 450 graduates and kick off its sesquicentennial year at its 2017 Commencement.

The Commencement Speaker is composer Julia Wolfe, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for music, and the Sesquicentennial Speaker is the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a nationally known pastor, orator and civil rights advocate. Barber is also a 2003 alumnus of Drew Theological School, which opened in the fall of 1867.

Drew began as a seminary before adding undergraduate and graduate programs. Some 458 students from the three schools are expected to graduate on commencement day, which is May 13. During the ceremony—which is scheduled to take place behind Mead Hall beginning at 10:30 a.m.—the speakers will receive honorary degrees in humane letters.

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Julia Wolfe
Photo: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Wolfe is this year’s Artist-in-Residence at Drew, co-teaching a course on documentary expression, lecturing and presenting a performance by the Brooklyn-based ensemble that she co-founded, the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

Wolfe draws inspiration from folk, classical and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio, “Anthracite Fields,” drew upon oral histories, interviews and speeches to honor those who persevered and endured in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania.

Since 2009, Wolfe has taught at New York University’s Steinhardt School and last year she earned a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Wolfe has a PhD from Princeton University, a master’s from Yale University and a bachelor’s from the University of Michigan, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

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Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Photo: Justin Cook

Barber is pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, president of the North Carolina NAACP and a past fellow at MIT’s Community Innovators Lab. In addition, he’s the founder of Moral Mondays—a multi-racial, multi-generational movement—and serves on the national board of the NAACP, chairing its Legislative Political Action Committee.

Barber is also an author and contributor to publications such as The Nation. As a leading voice on civil rights, he has been featured in The New York Times and on CNN.

Barber graduated cum laude from North Carolina Central University and earned a master of divinity from Duke University and a doctor of ministry from Drew Theological School.

For more on Drew’s 2017 Commencement, click here.