Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk will address the class of 2001 as the keynote speaker at this year’s Commencement ceremony May 20 on the Ellipse.
GW will award honorary degrees to six others, including singer Tony Bennett, National Symphony Director Leonard Slatkin, Southeastern University President Charlene Drew Jarvis, Greater Washington Board of Trade President John R. Tydings, National Science Foundation Director Rita Colwell and aerosol-medicine scholar H.R. Shepherd. All degree recipients will speak at the ceremony.
Wouk won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1951 book The Caine Mutiny, a story of morality on a Navy ship in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. GW announced Wouk as the keynote speaker in late April, a week after announcing the slate of seven degree recipients.
The University chose the degree recipients because they have greatly contributed to their fields and society, said Bob Ludwig, assistant director of media relations.
The University accepts nominations for Commencement speakers and degree recipients and sends them to the Faculty Senate and GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg for consideration. Trachtenberg then sends the list to the board of trustees for approval. Invitations are issued from the list of nominees.
Wouk received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1934 at age 19. Wouk’s novels, which depict scenes from World War II, draw from the author’s Naval experience in the Pacific after the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Wouk participated in eight invasions on the U.S.S. Zane and later an executive officer on the U.S.S. Southard, which earned him several honors.
Wouk’s adaptation of his books The Winds of War and War and Remembrance for an ABC miniseries won the 1988-1999 Outstanding Miniseries Emmy Award.
Bennett, who did not attend college himself after leaving high school early, told The Washington Post last week he will urge GW’s graduates to “just have fun” with whatever route they take in life. Graduates often feel frustrated after leaving college and not having an immediate direction, he told The Post.
Bennett, who has won nine Grammy Awards and sold about 50 million albums since he began his professional career in the 1950s, is completing his latest album, Bennett Sings the Blues.
Before comedian Bob Hope discovered Bennett in a Greenwich Village, N.Y., revue in 1949, Bennett sang in the U.S. Army’s entertainment unit during World War II.
Recent graduation ceremonies have featured speakers such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Sen. Bob Dole, comedian Bill Cosby, first lady Hilary Rodham Clinton, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and current Secretary of State Colin Powell.
University officials said are looking forward to this year’s Commencement, although a remote risk of severe weather could cancel the event. In 1995, severe lightning before the ceremony forced GW to cancel the outdoor exercise. Weather.com forecasts 80-degree partly cloudy weather for Sunday.
Graduating seniors expressed disappointment with a line-up of speakers they said relates more to their families than them, according to an April 26 Hatchet article.
GW has held Commencement on the Ellipse since 1992, when Trachtenberg combined the University’s several small Commencement ceremonies into a unified outdoor ceremony.
Commencement processions will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday and are expected to last about two hours.