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2018 Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients


Posted 05/16/2018
Posted by Mildred McNeill


Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. will address the undergraduate Class of 2018 at Commencement on Sunday, May 20.

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. will address the undergraduate Class of 2018 at Commencement on Sunday, May 20.

Charles "Chuck" Pagano will address the graduate Class of 2018 at Commencement on Saturday, May 19.

Charles "Chuck" Pagano will address the graduate Class of 2018 at Commencement on Saturday, May 19.

Linda J. Kelly, retired President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Saturday, May 19.

Linda J. Kelly, retired President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Saturday, May 19.

President Emeritus Walter Harrison will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Sunday, May 20.

President Emeritus Walter Harrison will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Sunday, May 20.

Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. is the University of Hartford’s 2018 Undergraduate Commencement Speaker and Alumnus Charles Pagano ’84, M’07, retired executive vice president and chief technology officer at ESPN, is the 2018 graduate Commencement speaker.

Award-winning columnist and author Leonard Pitts Jr. will deliver the Commencement address to the University of Hartford’s undergraduate Class of 2018 on Sunday, May 20, 2018. Pitts, whowill receive an honorary doctor of letters during the ceremony, has been a columnist, a college professor, a radio producer, and a lecturer in a career spanning four decades. But if you ask him to define himself, he will invariably choose one word. He is a writer—period. He writes of one of the most popular newspaper columns in the country and has written a series of critically acclaimed books, including his latest, Racism in America: Cultural Codes and Color Lines in the 21st Century, a collection of his articles His lifelong devotion to the art and craft of words has yielded stellar results, chief among them the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. 

Pitts’ career is filled with prizes for literary excellence. In 1997, he took first place for commentary for newspapers with a circulation of over 300,000 in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors’ ninth annual writing awards competition. He is a three-time recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence Award, and he was chosen NABJ’s 2008 Journalist of the Year. Pitts is a seven-time recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Award.

Pitts was born and raised in Southern California. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in English at the age of 19 after entering college at age 15 through a special honors program. He has taught at Hampton University, Ohio University, the University of Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth University, and The George Washington University. He has also been a visiting professor at Princeton University, where he taught a course on writing about race.

Twice each week, millions of newspaper readers seek out Pitts’ rich words that often connect with their lives. On Sept. 11, 2001, he wrote an angry and defiant open letter to the terrorists, titled "We'll Go Forward From This Moment." Reader response was strong. It circulated the globe via the Internet, and generated more than 30,000 emails in response. It was set to music, reprinted in poster form, read on television, and quoted in the Democratic Party's weekly radio address.

In 2008, Pitts wrote a series of columns titled “I am a Man” to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also writes an occasional series called “What Works?” about programs across the country that show results in improving the lives of black children.

Author Tavis Smiley called Pitts “the most insightful and inspiring columnist of his generation.”

Alumnus Charles Pagano is Graduate Commencement Speaker on Saturday, May 19

Charles “Chuck” Pagano ’84, M’07 is a retired executive vice president and chief technology officer at ESPN. Pagano joined ESPN a month before it actually signed onto the air in 1979—and long before it became the global sports multimedia juggernaut it is today. Starting as a technical director, Pagano spent 35 years at ESPN, retiring in Feb. 2015 as its executive vice president and chief technology officer. He guided ESPN to become a leader in sports television technology and expanded its technological footprint across the globe.

Pagano’s contributions made ESPN the leader in marrying cutting-edge technology to unparalleled content across a variety of media platforms. He was the key driver in the creation of ESPN’s Digital Center in Bristol, Conn., one of the most technically sophisticated TV production facilities in the world. Outfitted as an all-encompassing digital resource, the building contains over 7 million feet of cable and four HDTV studios.

Pagano’s culminating effort was delivery of the Digital Center 2 facility. In this 194,000-square foot building, the sports media company is prepared to handle the next wave of technology, whether that be producing content in 8K resolution or adapting shows to be interactive with social media.

In January 2016, Pagano was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 67th Annual Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards, held in Las Vegas. He has been inducted into both the Consumer Technology Association Hall of Fame and the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Throughout the industry, Pagano became known as a collaborative partner, an early adopter of new ideas, and a leader who always recognized that technology starts with people. He is also praised for his loyalty, a trait that is clearly illustrated through his long-standing association with the University of Hartford. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in organizational psychology from UHart; is a former member of the University’s Board of Regents; currently serves on the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture’s Board of Visitors; and was presented with the University of Hartford’s Distinguished Alumni Award at the 2017 Commencement.

Active in the community, Pagano is a Commissioner for the Waterbury (Conn.) Board of Education and president of Holy Land Waterbury, whose mission is to preserve the historic city landmark that the nonprofit is named for. He previously was chairman of the Connecticut Technology Council.

Hartford Area Leaders Linda Kelly and Walter Harrison to Receive Honorary Degrees

Linda J. Kelly, retired president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the graduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19. During her tenure, the foundation, which is among the oldest and largest community foundations in the country, reached a record of nearly $1 billion in assets; set grant-making records; expanded outreach to communities of color; and collaborated with businesses, public policy leaders, and local and national nonprofits to improve equity, access, and opportunity for residents. She was the first female and first person of color to lead the organization since its establishment in 1925.

Walter Harrison, president emeritus of the University of Hartford will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the undergraduate commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20. Harrison was the University’s longest serving president, serving from 1998 to 2017 and overseeing a period of growth, vitality, and transformation at the University. He oversaw significant growth in the undergraduate and graduate student population, new professional programs in architecture and health sciences, and improvement in the quality of the University’s academic offerings. The University’s libraries are named for him to recognize his devotion to the life of the mind.

Find complete Commencement information here

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. will address the undergraduate Class of 2018 at Commencement on Sunday, May 20.

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. will address the undergraduate Class of 2018 at Commencement on Sunday, May 20.

Charles "Chuck" Pagano will address the graduate Class of 2018 at Commencement on Saturday, May 19.

Charles "Chuck" Pagano will address the graduate Class of 2018 at Commencement on Saturday, May 19.

Linda J. Kelly, retired President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Saturday, May 19.

Linda J. Kelly, retired President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Saturday, May 19.

President Emeritus Walter Harrison will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Sunday, May 20.

President Emeritus Walter Harrison will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Sunday, May 20.