UArts' Commencement Speakers and Honorees

March 13, 2018

We are pleased to announce that the University has selected the 2018 recipients of our Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees, to be presented at UArts’ 140th Commencement ceremony on May 10, and our Commencement speakers. We will also honor two of our distinguished alumni during the ceremony.

HDFA recipients and speakers are:

  • Kevin Beggs, chairman of the Lionsgate Television Group, creators of 90 hit shows on more than 40 networks, including AMC’s “Mad Men,” Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” CMT’s “Nashville,” Hulu’s “Casual,” Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and “Weeds,” and more. He is the recipient of Operation Smile’s John Connor Humanitarian Award, The Help Group’s Teddy Bear Humanitarian Award, and the Broadcasting & Cable 2014 Innovation Award. In October 2017 he was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
  • Lorna Simpson, acclaimed visual artist whose signature style is "photo-text,” in which graphic text is inserted into studio-like portraiture to bring new conceptual meaning into the work. In 1990, she became the first African-American woman to exhibit at the Venice Biennale. In the same year, she had one-woman exhibitions at several major museums, including the Denver Art Museum, the Portland Art Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. Her name has become synonymous with photo-text artworks that confront and challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history and memory. She is profiled in this month’s issue of Vogue magazine.

The third distinguished recipient of an honorary doctor of Fine Arts degree is:

  • Al West, chairman and CEO of SEI, the Oaks, Pennsylvania-based financial services company he founded in 1968 and that manages or administers $861 billion in assets, and founder of the West Collection of contemporary art. The collection features 3,100 compelling works by more than 700 leading international artists. At any given time 1,500 works are installed at the SEI Corporate Campus and other works are displayed in rotating exhibitions at the nearby West Collection Warehouse. Works have been loaned for exhibitions to museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Tate Modern.

UArts will honor two alumni during the Commencement ceremony, with the Silver Star Alumni Award:

  • Lucas Steele BFA ’01 (Musical Theater), an award-winning musical theater performer who earned a 2017 Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the role of Anatole in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. The Broadway show was a sung-through musical adaptation of a 70-page segment from Leo Tolstoy's 'War and Peace.' Lucas also won the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Actor in a Musical for playing Anatole in the Off-Broadway version of the musical.
  • Catherine Edelman BFA ’85 (Photography), opened Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago in 1987 as a venue for contemporary fine art photography. Since its founding, it’s become one of the leading galleries in the Midwest devoted to the exhibition of prominent living photographers, alongside new and young talent. Catherine is widely respected as a leader, educator and specialist in the field of contemporary photography.