President Yager Announces 2021 Honorary Doctorate Recipients

Sent to students, faculty and staff April 15, 2021

Dear students, faculty and staff,

University of the Arts is honoring two extremely accomplished individuals at its virtual Commencement ceremony this year: Agnes Gund and Carrie Mae Weems. UArts’ virtual Commencement ceremony will be celebrated Saturday, May 22, at 10 a.m. EDT, via commencement.uarts.edu.

Agnes Gund is president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art and chair of its International Council. She is also chair emerita of MoMA PS1. Gund joined the MoMA Board in 1976 and served as president from 1991 until 2002. She is also founder and chair emerita of Studio in a School, a nonprofit organization she established in 1977 in response to budget cuts that virtually eliminated arts classes from New York City public schools.

A philanthropist and collector of modern and contemporary art, Gund serves on the boards of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, and the Morgan Library and Museum. She is cofounder and chair emerita of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, trustee emerita of the Barnes Foundation and the National YoungArts Foundation, and an honorary trustee of Independent Curators International and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland.

A civic leader and staunch supporter of education, environmental concerns and social justice, Gund has served on the boards of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, the Andy Warhol Foundation, Chess in the Schools, the Frick Collection, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the New York City Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, among other organizations. In June 2017, she launched the Art for Justice Fund in partnership with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to support criminal justice reform in the U.S.

Gund earned a BA in History from Connecticut College and an MA in Art History from Harvard University. She holds honorary doctorates from Bowdoin College (2012), the CUNY Graduate Center (2007), and Brown University (1996), and was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts (2016). She received the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton (1997), the J. Paul Getty Medal (2018), the inaugural Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award (2020) and the French Legion of Honour (2021).

Carrie Mae Weems will also join us and address graduating students. Widely renowned as one of the most influential living artists in the U.S., Weems examines how our society structures power through deeply embedded stories, images and ideas. Among many other honors, Weems is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (also known as the “genius” grant) and was the first Black woman to have a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. In addition, Weems has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Tate Modern, the Walker Art Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art and many other institutions. She is also the recipient of the BET Honors Visual Artist Award, the Prix de Rome, the Frida Kahlo Award for Innovative Creativity, the International Center for Photography Spotlight Award, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, the Lucie Award for Fine Art Photography and the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. Weems has received honorary degrees from Bowdoin College, California College of the Arts, Colgate University, the School of Visual Arts and Syracuse University. In 2012, Weems was presented with one of the first U.S. Department of State’s Medals of Arts, in recognition for her commitment to the State Department’s Art in Embassies program.

In August 2020, we installed a public art project of Carrie’s on UArts’ campus titled Resist Covid Take 6! which aimed to create an artist-driven public awareness campaign to educate and enlighten Black, Latinx and Native American communities about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. We also hosted an exclusive conversation with Carrie for our community in support of this project. 

I have spoken and visited with both recipients, and I could not be more pleased to have Agnes and Carrie with us to inspire our students, especially at this time. With their added presence, I am certain our virtual Commencement celebration will be a success.

As a reminder, Commencement will be celebrated remotely Saturday, May 22, at 10 a.m. EDT. This event will be open to anyone to join from anywhere.

Our task force of staff and faculty devoted to this project continue to work tirelessly to deliver a truly unique and participatory online experience for our students that will celebrate and share the accomplishments of our graduates. All graduating students will soon receive more information on what they can expect on May 22, as well as how they can participate. Please watch your inboxes for this very important information.

Again, I hope you all will join us Saturday, May 22, at 10 a.m., as we celebrate a very special Commencement. Details for how to log on will be shared closer to the event. Please save the date.

Best wishes,

David