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NewsMay 6, 2022

Lesley University celebrates Commencement on the Boston waterfront May 21

Watch the livestream and hear from students and honorees, including National Endowment for the Humanities Chair Shelly C. Lowe and Cambridge Community Foundation President Geeta Pradhan, as we honor the of Classes 2022, 2021 and 2020

A view of the graduates in the audience with the Lesley banner in the background.

Lesley University will celebrate and honor our graduates' achievements during in-person Commencement on Saturday, May 21 at the Leader Bank Pavilion in Boston.

Commencement speakers Shelly C. Lowe, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and the first Native American chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and local civic leader Geeta Pradhan, president of the Cambridge Community Foundation, will receive honorary degrees.

Lesley will celebrate the students completing their degrees in 2022, and honor our graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021, whose Commencements were held virtually due to the pandemic.

There will be two Commencement ceremonies:

Headshots of Shelly Lowe (on the left) and Geeta Pradhan
Commencement speakers Shelly C. Lowe (left) and Geeta Pradhan will receive honorary degrees from Lesley.

Lesley will award an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts to visual artist Olivia "Libby" Parker, and award an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to the two speakers, Shelly C. Lowe and Geeta Pradhan.

“Both speakers have deep commitments to furthering social equity, diversity and inclusion, and we are so excited to feature their voices at this year’s Commencement celebration,” said President Janet L. Steinmayer.

About the honorees

Shelly Lowe is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Ganado, Arizona. From 2015 to 2021 she served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities, the 26-member advisory body to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an appointment she received from President Obama.

President Biden nominated Shelly Lowe to serve as the first Native American Chair of NEH, and she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in early February. Until her appointment as NEH chair, Lowe served as executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program. Prior to that she was assistant dean in the Yale College Dean’s Office and director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale University. She also spent six years as the graduate education program facilitator for the American Indian Studies Programs at the University of Arizona.

Lowe has served in a variety of leadership roles nationally, most recently as a member of the University of Arizona Alumni Association Governing Board and of the Challenge Leadership Group for the MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellowship. She has served on the board of the National Indian Education Association and as a trustee on the board for the National Museum of the American Indian.

Lowe holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, a master’s degree in American Indian Studies and has completed doctoral coursework in higher education from the University of Arizona.

She is a Cambridge resident and the mother of a 2019 Lesley graduate.

Geeta Pradhan has served as president of the Cambridge Community Foundation (CCF) since 2015. As CCF’s leader, she draws on her deep experience in philanthropy, urban planning and economic development to support the foundation’s goals of increasing shared prosperity, social equity and cultural richness in Cambridge.

CCF has been an effective and high-impact grant maker for over a century. Today, it supports more than 150 nonprofits annually with grants totaling over $3 million. The organization is highly respected as a neutral, civic voice and a collaborative philanthropic partner, working with donors, businesses, nonprofits, universities and engaged citizens to address residents’ needs. During Pradhan’s tenure, CCF has published two influential research reports on the equity challenges facing Cambridge, “Equity & Innovation Cities: The Case of Cambridge” (2021) and “Boomtown/Hometown: What the Numbers say about Income, Housing and Education in Cambridge Today” (2017).

A Boston resident, Pradhan studied architecture in India and holds a master’s degree in Urban Design from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Prior to taking the helm at CCF, she worked at The Boston Foundation for 14 years, where she oversaw the development of strategic initiatives and programs. She also worked for the City of Boston for six years as the director of Sustainable Boston.

Head shot of Olivia Parker wearing a black top seated in an orange chair
Olivia "Libby" Parker

Olivia “Libby” Parker is an internationally recognized photographer with a deep connection to Lesley. A Wellesley College graduate and art history major, she began her career in the visual arts as a painter and later started photographing ephemeral constructions. Her work is in major private, corporate, and museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The Peabody Essex Museum. Parker has had residencies at numerous renowned institutions, including Dartmouth College, MacDowell, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Cassilhaus. There are four monographs of Parker’s work. The most recent is "Order of Imagination," published in 2019 by The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) and The University of Washington Press in conjunction with a major retrospective exhibit at PEM that year.

“Vanishing in Plain Sight,” images related to her husband John O. Parker’s experience with Alzheimer’s Disease, was exhibited at our Lunder Arts Center in the spring of 2019. Parker has received the Wellesley Alumnae Achievement Award, and in November 2019 she was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

A member of the Friends of Lesley, Parker is a former Overseer of the Art Institute of Boston (AIB), which was since renamed the Lesley University College of Art and Design. Her late husband chaired Lesley’s Board of Trustees and was instrumental in AIB’s merger with Lesley. Lesley named the John O. and Olivia Parker Gallery in their honor in Lesley’s University Hall Atrium. Parker’s late brother, Charles Hood, also served on the Lesley University Board of Trustees.

Learn more about Commencement

Visit our Commencement page for more information, and share your graduation photos on social media with the hashtag #Lesley2022.

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