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Two U.S. senators, business and law leaders, philanthropists, television writer and others to join graduates for WVU Commencement ceremonies

A photograph of inside the WVU Coliseum during Commencement.

Eight honorary degrees will be awarded during WVU Commencement Weekend May 10-12 at the Coliseum. (WVU Photo/David Malecki)

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Thousands of West Virginia University graduates will celebrate their successes Commencement Weekend May 10-12 alongside eight honorary degree recipients and two speakers during nine ceremonies at the Coliseum.

“It is important for our graduates to see and hear from those who have successfully followed their own paths of purpose,” President Gordon Gee said. “Our esteemed honorary degree recipients and speakers, representing fields from politics to performance to philanthropy and more, are making the world a better place. Our hope is our graduates can find inspiration as they take important steps in their own lives.”

See the full Commencement Weekend schedule.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) will be presented with a Presidential Honorary Degree during the School of Medicine ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday, May 10. Capito, a Glen Dale native, has served in the U.S. Senate since being elected in 2014 as the first female U.S. senator in state history. She previously served for 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will address graduates, families and friends during the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 12. A University alumnus and Farmington native, Manchin was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree in 2005. A member of the U.S. Senate since 2010, he previously served for six years as West Virginia’s governor.

Thomas Heywood, chair of business development and past managing partner of Bowles Rice who has experience in health care, banking, and corporate and commercial law, will receive a dual Doctor of Law and a Doctor of Business honorary degree during the College of Law ceremony at 9 a.m. Friday, May 10.

University alumna Cynthia Bissett Germanotta, president and co-founder of Born This Way Foundation, will be presented with a Presidential Honorary Degree during the ceremony for the School of Dentistry, School of Pharmacy, School of Nursing and School of Public Health at noon Friday, May 10. Germanotta launched Born This Way Foundation with her daughter, Lady Gaga, to empower and inspire young people to build a kinder world that supports their mental health.

Two honorary degree recipients will be recognized during the Reed College of Media and College of Creative Arts ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 11.

Pianist Barbara Nissman, a West Virginian “by choice” who has performed with major conductors and orchestras on nearly every continent and is a member of the inaugural class of Steinway Legends chosen from more than a century of Steinway Artists, will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Music degree.

A University theatre graduate who actively supports current students, Dawn DeNoon, an award-winning television writer and producer based in Los Angeles, will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Hired for the original writing staff for “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” she worked for more twelve seasons on the show. Her writing credits also include “Blue Bloods,” “The Blacklist” and Netflix’s reboot of “Designated Survivor.”

Additionally, the graduating classes from the two colleges will hear from guest speaker and University alumnus Rick Loughery, vice president of global marketing and communications for GoPro, one of the top brands in the outdoor sports and consumer technology industries.

During the John Chambers College of Business and Economics ceremony at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11, a Doctor of Business honorary degree will be presented to Karen S. Evans, managing director for the Cyber Readiness Institute, which empowers small and medium-sized organizations with free resources to improve cybersecurity.

Also during the Chambers College ceremony, Maggie Hardy, owner and CEO of 84 Lumber and Nemacolin, who has invested in the University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program to train future leaders for the hospitality industry, will be awarded a Presidential Honorary Degree.

Benjamin Ashby Hardesty, a University graduate who is the owner and CEO of Alta Energy LLC and has built a long career in oil, natural gas and energy infrastructure, will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree during the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, May 12.

See past honorary degree recipients.

Find more about information about WVU Commencement, including links to ceremony livestreams.



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