Alvin Ailey Artistic Director Robert Battle Delivers Keynote Address at 136th Commencement

He tells Class of 2014 to 'pay attention!'

Updated May 20, 2014

Watch a webcast of the 136th Commencement >>

"Pay attention! If you don't pay attention, you'll pay for it. If you do pay attention, eventually you’ll get paid for it." These are just some of the wise and witty words imparted to the Class of 2014 by Robert L. Battle (above and below center), artistic director of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the keynote speaker at the University’s 136th Commencement ceremony.

Watch Battle's speech >>

The award-winning dancer and choreographer also received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from UArts President Sean T. Buffington, who presided over the celebration held May 15 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

Watch Buffington's speech >>

Other honorees included Silver Star Outstanding Alumni Award recipients Adam W. Blackstone BM '04 (Instrumental Performance) [bassist/producer/musical director for Justin Timberlake, Rihanna] and Emmy Award-winning TV and film sound editor Jeffrey Stern BFA '75 (Film) ["Boardwalk Empire," "Goodfellas"].

Read a Philadelphia Inquirer story on Blackstone >>

Nijel C. Taylor '14 (Graphic Design) [above] delivered a moving valedictory speech that earned him a standing ovation for his inspirational words, while Josh Levitas BFA ’00 (Illustration) greeted the soon-to-be alumni as a member of the UArts Alumni Council.

Watch Taylor's speech >>

The ceremony also recognized Hannah Hamilton ’14 (Film & Video), Aria Velz ’14 (Directing, Playwriting & Production) and Xander Karkruff MFA ’14 (Museum Exhibition Planning & Design), who each received the President’s Award; Academic Achievement Award winners Anne Meier ’14 (Illustration) from the College of Art, Media & Design and Kali Page ’14 (Dance) from the College of Performing Arts; and faculty award recipients Elise Juska, assistant professor of Creative Writing (Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award), James Makins, professor of Craft & Material Studies (Richard C. von Hess Faculty Prize) and D'Arcy Webb, assistant professor in the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts (President’s Distinguished Teaching Award).

Highlights of the 136th Commencement ceremony included a stellar performance by the UArts "Z" Big Band and graduating Vocal Performance students (above), who brought the crowd to its feet with spectacular renditions of "America the Beautiful" and "With a Little Help from My Friends," and the irresistible samba troupe Alo Brasil (below), who closed the ceremony by leading the new graduates and their families back down Broad Street to Hamilton Hall for a post-ceremony celebration.

Watch the performance of "With A Little Help From My Friends" >>

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