VPA convocation speakers

The College of Visual and Performing Arts holds a convocation ceremony each May during Syracuse University's Commencement Weekend. The following distinguished individuals--many of whom are alumni--have served as speakers.

VPA alumni designation includes the current department from which they graduated in parenthesis (“CRS” refers to communication and rhetorical studies). An “H” after an alumnus’s name indicates that the individual received an honorary degree from Syracuse University.


2014  Danielle Nottingham '99 (CRS), broadcast journalist
Bryan Buckley '85 (Design), television commercial and film director
  Shane W. Evans '93 (Art), illustrator
2011  Pete Yorn ’96 (CRS), singer-songwriter (view video of speech)
2010  William Cleveland, arts-based community developer


2009  Gianfranco Zaccai ’70 (Design), H’09, designer and innovator
2008  Vanessa Williams ’85 (Drama), actress and recording artist
2007  Mary Cotter ’69 (Music), cable television president
2006  Joanne Shenandoah H’02, singer-songwriter
2005  Evan Weinstein ’84 (Drama), television producer
2004  David Ross ’71, museum director and educator
2003  Emme ’85 (CRS), model, fashion entrepreneur, and women’s advocate
2002  No keynote speaker
2001  Paul Kellogg H’01, opera artistic director
2000  Gianfranco Zaccai ’70 (Design), H’09, designer and innovator


1999  Andrew Grose ’85 (Drama), actor and physician
1998  Jim Morin ’75 (Art), editorial cartoonist
1997  Aaron Sorkin ’83 H'12 (Drama), television, film, and theater writer and producer
1996  Bill Viola ’73 H’95 (Transmedia), video artist
1995  Donald Martino ’52 (Music), composer
1994  Edward Bleier ’94 (CRS), radio and television executive
1993  Chief Oren Lyons ’58 H’93 (Art), artist and activist
1992  Robb Armstrong ’85 (Design), cartoonist
1991  Virginia Denton ’61 (Design), designer
1990  Jerry Leider ’53 (Drama), entertainment industry producer and executive


1989  Morton Kaish ’49 (Art), painter and critic
1988  Phyllis Bryn-Julson ’67 G’69 (Music), soprano, and Donald Sutherland ’61 G’63 (Music), organist
1987  Gil Cates ’55 G’65 (Drama), film, television, and theater producer
1986  Roger L. Schlaifer ’67 (Art), artist
1985  Gap Mangione ’65 (Music), jazz musician
1984  Frank Langella ’59 (Drama), actor