distant view of commencement stage

Class of 2023 Plans for Commencement, Honorary Degree Recipients Announced Leaders in the arts, sciences, business, education and law will be recognized with honorary degrees during this year’s University Commencement. 

Chapman University will honor the graduates of the Class of 2023 with traditional Commencement celebrations over the weekend of May 1921. Festivities will include fireworks and a toast from the president of the university, Daniele C. Struppa. 

The keynote address during Friday’s University Commencement ceremony will be delivered by award-winning actress Angela Bassett

Bassett will receive one of seven honorary degrees being awarded this year to individuals who have distinguished themselves as scientists, artists and leaders in business, law and education. This year’s honorees are:

Angela Bassett
Doctor of Arts, honoris causa (D.Art)

angela bassettANGELA BASSETT is an actress, director, and executive producer known for captivating performances full of dignity in treasured films such as WAITING TO EXHALE, HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK, BOYZ N THE HOOD, and WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT, for which she received a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination. 

Angela has made star-turns in the historic BLACK PANTHER, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-FALLOUT, BUMBLEBEE from Paramount, 9-1-1, and MASTER OF NONE. Other projects include Disney/Pixar’s Academy Award-winning animated feature SOUL, for which she lent her melodious voice for the character, Dorothea Williams; feature films OTHERHOOD and GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE from Netflix; and THE FLOOD from National Geographic, for which she received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Narrator. Further, she was nominated for two Emmys, including Outstanding Narrator for the IMAGINEERING STORY: THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for A BLACK LADY SKETCH SHOW. 

Angela recently reprised her role as the beloved Queen Ramonda in BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER, for which she received Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards, with Academy Award, SAG and BAFTA nominations, as well as the Variety Creative Impact in Acting Award, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s top honor Montecito Award, two Hollywood Critics Association Awards, and an NAACP Image Award, including Entertainer of the Year.  

Apple Original Films announced the documentary feature, NUMBER ONE ON THE CALL SHEET: BLACK LEADING WOMEN IN HOLLYWOOD, which is to be directed by Shola Lynch with Angela and Halle Berry on board as executive producers and will debut globally on AppleTV+. She recently wrapped production on the Netflix Originals feature film, DAMSEL, opposite Millie Bobby Brown. Angela is the recipient of a SAG Award, an AAFCA Honors Award, 14 NAACP Image Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Black Girls Rock! Icon Award. She was recently honored by Glamour’s Women of the Year and Time Magazine’s Women of the Year. She received a Critics Choice Documentary Award for Best Narration of GOOD NIGHT OPPY and the Critics Choice Celebration of Black Cinema & Television Career Achievement Award. Angela has earned multiple Emmy nominations and was also nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award for her directorial debut of the Whitney Houston biopic WHITNEY. Angela further showcased her directing talents in the popular horror anthology series AMERICAN HORROR STORY. She holds a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Angela graduated with a B.A. in African American Studies, an M.F.A. in Drama and an honorary doctorate from Yale University. She also has honorary doctorates from Morehouse College and Old Dominion University. 

Angela and her husband, Courtney B. Vance, are the principals of their production company, Bassett Vance Productions, which has a partnership with Paramount’s MTV Entertainment Group’s development program for BIPOC and women filmmakers. Their first project, ONE THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY, aired in February 2022 on the Smithsonian Channel.

The Honourable Rosalie Silberman Abella 
Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.)

The Honourable Rosalie Silberman Abella was the first refugee and the first Jewish woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. As of fall 2022, she became the first Canadian jurist to hold a chair at Harvard Law School: the Samuel and Judith Pisar Visiting Professor of Law. Through her 45-year career serving Canadian jurisprudence, Justice Abella was a legal trailblazer, advocating consistently for employment equality rights and equality rights at large. The positions she has held include Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations, Chair of the Ontario Law Reform Commission, and Commissioner on the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Her work on the 1984 Canadian Royal Commission of Equality in Employment created the concept of “employment equity” and her definition of equality was adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Donna Ford Attallah ’61
Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa (L.H.D.)

Donna Ford Attallah graduated from Chapman University in 1961 with a bachelor of arts in education and soon began her 40-year career with the Cypress School District teaching kindergarten and first grade. Her fond memories of her years at Chapman grew into a lifelong dedication to learning, educating and serving others. As steadfast believers in the power of education, Donna and her late husband, Dr. Fahmy Attallah, a noted school psychologist, author and Olympian, generously contributed to many initiatives at Chapman. The couple’s giving provided students and faculty with various opportunities, resources and meaningful programs promoting their success. In recognition of Donna’s decades of philanthropy and leadership, Chapman University named the College of Educational Studies in her honor in 2017. She currently serves on the Attallah College Advisory Board and is an emeritus member of the Board of Trustees for Chapman University.

Nick Hanauer
Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa (L.H.D.)

Nick Hanauer is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and business leader with more than three decades of experience managing, founding and investing in dozens of companies. His focus has turned toward public policy in recent years, and he has been recognized nationally as a civic innovator and courageous voice for significant social change. As the founder of Civic Ventures, an organization dedicated to shepherding ideas into movements, he has helped establish effective policies designed to improve the lives of entire communities and create a more sustainable, more equitable and more prosperous society. He is also the author of two bestselling books (“The True Patriot” and “Gardens of Democracy”) and has contributed policy pieces to world-renowned outlets like Politico, Bloomberg News and TED.  His commitment to the greater good was notably recognized in 2014 when he received “Seattle’s Person of the Year” and in 2018 when he received the Humanist Award from Harvard University and MIT.  

William Helton 
Doctor of Sciences, honoris causa (D.Sc.)

William Helton is a highly regarded interdisciplinary scientist known for his significant contributions to mathematics, specifically in operator theory and functional analysis, and for linking these areas with electrical engineering, optimal control and mathematical physics. Early in his career, he discovered that a major branch of operator theory closely corresponded to a major branch of systems engineering. Pursuing this path led to him being one of the originators of a new methodology for controller design called “H Infinity Control,” which optimizes “worst-case frequency domain” performance. It is taught today to most graduate students in control theory. Helton played a pivotal role in the creation of two conference series arising from this flurry of interdisciplinary activity. The more engineering-oriented Mathematical Theory of Networks and Systems (MTNS) and the International Workshop on Operator Theory and its Applications (IWOTA) conference series both play a critical role in developing connections between fields and promoting promising young researchers. Helton has a close connection with Chapman University and was instrumental in the preparation of the university’s IWOTA conference in 2021. 

Floyd Norman
Doctor of the University, honoris causa (D.Univ.)

Floyd Norman is an American animator, story writer, author and cartoonist who became the first African American animator at Disney Studios in 1959. In 2007, he became a Disney Legend, having worked for Disney most of his career. He has accomplished an equally long career in television as a layout and storyboard artist working for a variety of studios, and in the early ’70s he began his own studio, Vignette Films. He has been a notable cartoonist and author writing about his experiences in his long award-winning career. His work in providing resources for communities, parents and children through Afrokids.com and his willingness to be a resource for college students studying animation testify to his giving and caring nature.

Eric Whitacre
Doctor of Arts, honoris causa (D.Art)

Grammy Award-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre is among today’s most popular musicians. His works are programmed worldwide and his ground-breaking Virtual Choirs have united over 100,000 singers from more than 145 countries. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Eric is currently a visiting composer at Pembroke College, Cambridge University (UK) and is an ambassador for the Royal College of Music (London). Eric served two terms as artist in residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and is proud to be a Yamaha Artist. His long-term relationship with Universal/Decca Classics has produced several hit albums. Recent compositions include a long-form work – The Sacred Veil – and an orchestral piece – Prelude in C – commissioned by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra.  His collaboration with Spitfire Audio resulted in a trail-blazing vocal sample library which became an instant bestseller and is used by composers the world over.

fireworks over musco centerCommencement Weekend Events

Complete details about the weekend events can be found at graduation.chapman.edu, but here are a few highlights graduates, their families and friends can plan for. 

Interfaith Baccalaureate Service
Thursday, May 18, 7 p.m.
Wallace All Faiths Chapel

Baccalaureate is a traditional spiritual service open to those of all faiths. This year’s special guest is two-time champion of Dancing with the Stars, Val Chmerkovskiy. Chmerkovskiy is the co-founder of the Humanitarian Aid Fund, Baranova27, which sends relief and supplies to the people of Ukraine. Graduating students are all invited, along with their families and Chapman students, faculty and staff.  Graduates RSVP to interfaith@chapman.edu. Families are first come first serve seating.

University Commencement Ceremony and President’s Toast
Friday, May 19, 7 p.m.
Wilson Field

The University Commencement Ceremony, previously known as Closing Convocation, is the signature event of Commencement weekend and is open to all graduates and their guests. This year’s keynote address will be delivered by actress, director and executive producer Angela Bassett, who will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts during the ceremony. Tickets are free, but limited seating is available and registration is required in advance. 

After the ceremony, graduates and guests are invited to join President Struppa at the Aitken Arts Plaza, outside the Musco Center, as he raises a glass in the graduates’ honor. 

School and College Degree Ceremonies
Friday, May 19-21, various times
Wilson Field

In honor of all they’ve worked for, graduates will cross the stage in caps and gowns as they collect their diplomas. Degree ceremonies are free to attend and tickets are not required. See the complete schedule of school and college ceremonies

Staci Dumoski

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