President’s Announcement of 2018 Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients, 4/18/18

President’s Announcement of 2018 Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients, 4/18/18.

Dear Drew community members,

I cannot believe that in less than one month, on Saturday, May 12th, we will hold the 150th Drew University Commencement. We look forward to congratulating the 2018 graduating class on the completion of their degrees in the College of Liberal Arts, the Theological School, and Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. It is with great pleasure that I write today to announce our Commencement speakers, as well as the recipients of our honorary degrees.

Commencement Speakers

I am excited to share that this year’s ceremony will include two impressive speakers.

John Leguizamo

We are pleased to announce that John Leguizamo, actor, comedian, and activist, will deliver the Commencement Address. Mr. Leguizamo is a multi-faceted actor, voice-actor, stand-up comedian, producer, playwright, and screenwriter. He immigrated from Colombia at the age of four and has been active in speaking about racial honesty, as well rallying against stereotypes in Hollywood and beyond.

After hitting roadblocks, setbacks, and stereotypes in Hollywood, Mr. Leguizamo decided to write his own scripts and acclaimed one-man-shows. His most recent one-man-show, which he performed on Broadway was born out of a quest to find the perfect Latino hero for his son who was bullied by his classmates due to his Colombian heritage. He has a profound message about being proud of your culture. Mr. Leguizamo is enthusiastic about sharing this special occasion with the Class of 2018.

Mallory Mortillaro

We are pleased to announce that Mallory Mortillaro C’13, G’15, will speak in honor of alumnae and alumni achievement as part of our celebration of the 150th Drew University Commencement ceremony. Her address will conclude our Sesquicentennial year, which was opened by Rev. Dr. William Barber, DTS ’03 at last year’s commencement.

Mallory Mortillaro rose to fame in November 2017, for identifying, researching, and authenticating an Auguste Rodin sculpture that was previously thought to be missing. The bust was hiding in plain sight in Madison Borough Hall.  There Mallory had been hired, as a student, by the Hartley Dodge Foundation as a part-time archivist to catalog historical photographs and art. After months of investigating, dead-ends, and being turned away by art historians, her persistence unlocked an 80 year old mystery. Ms. Mortillaro is a sixth grade language arts teacher who represents the best of what a Drew University education has to offer.

Honorary Degree Recipients

I am also pleased to share that the Drew University Board of Trustees named two distinguished individuals to confer with honorary degrees at this year’s Commencement ceremony.

Dr. Steven Gilbert

We are proud to confer upon Dr. Steven Gilbert a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Dr. Gilbert started learning to appreciate liberal arts education from his parents and has never stopped. His mother, Dr. Norma Gilbert, a mathematics professor beloved by many students and colleagues at Drew, became, in 1970, the first woman to chair the mathematics department. Dr. Gilbert himself has recently demonstrated his personal commitment to Drew by spearheading the 2017 Gilbert Challenge, which raised over $5 million for the University in about seven months, including a $1 million gift from Dr. Gilbert himself. This gift joins other generous gifts Dr. Gilbert has made to Drew in honor of his parents.

Besides a BA in philosophy from Yale, Dr. Gilbert has several advanced degrees, including a PhD in German literature from the University of California, Berkeley. Long a student and teacher of languages, a translator, investor, and gadfly, he puts much of his time and energy these days into writing about politics and preparing the next exhibition of his expressive photography.

Dr. Arnold L. Demain

We are also proud to confer a Bachelor of Arts, honoris causa upon Dr. Arnold L. Demain (“Arny”). A research fellow of Drew University’s Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti (RISE), Dr. Demain is, at the age of 90, a force to be reckoned with in his service to students and his international connections that continue the momentum for his research. Dr. Demain is known as “one of the world’s leading industrial microbiologists” who is “constantly on the forefront of industrial microbiology and biotechnology.”

Dr. Demain served as a professor of industrial microbiology at MIT and was the founder and head of the department of fermentation microbiology at Merck & Co. He has served as a RISE fellow since 2001.  He obtained his Ph.D. in 1954 from the University of California, having divided his time between the Berkeley and Davis campuses. Dr. Demain has published more than 500 papers, co-authored fourteen books, and earned 21 U.S. patents.  Drew University honored Dr. Demain with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2009, but is pleased to acknowledge his extraordinary contributions to the research of Drew’s undergraduate community with this additional honorary degree.

We look forward to congratulating Dr. Gilbert and Dr. Demain on their honorary degrees and hearing from Mr. Leguizamo and Ms. Mortillaro at this year’s Commencement ceremony on May 12th as we celebrate the success of our graduating class.


Congratulations to all and we will see you on Mead Hall Lawn in just a few weeks!

Best wishes,