Press Releases

Frederick Wiseman, Filmmaker Dianne McIntyre, Dancer and Interdisciplinary Artist Will Be Awarded Honorary Degrees at Purchase College's 37th Commencement Ceremony

Date Released: 4/29/2009

Distinguished Alumni Awards
Chris Wedge, Oscar Winning Film Director, Co-founder Blue Sky Studios
Donald Margulies, Pulitzer Prize Winning Playwright

Purchase, NY—Thomas J. Schwarz, President of Purchase College, State University of New York, will preside at the 37th Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 15 at 1 PM on the West Lawn adjacent to The Performing Arts Center (735 Anderson Hill Road).  Degrees will be awarded to approximately 980 undergraduates and 74 graduate students.

Honorary Degrees will be conferred on filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, dancer and interdisciplinary artist Dianne McIntyre.

 The President's Award for Distinguished Alumni will be presented to Oscar winning film director Chris Wedge and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies.

The commencement will be held under a large white tent decorated with red and white banners and chevrons representing each of the College’s schools and conservatories.  Masses of red and white geraniums and hibiscus plants will decorate the stage.

The academic procession will be led by Mace Bearer Professor George Kraemer.  Faculty marshals Professor Ronnie Scharfman and Professor Joel Tenenbaum will escort the deans, department heads and senior College officials in academic robes representing the institutions from which they received their academic degrees.  Banners will identify the seating locations of the graduates and their respective schools and conservatories.

President Thomas J. Schwarz will welcome families, friends and officials and will be joined by State University of New York representatives.

Music for the ceremony will be performed by Professor of music Joe Ferry and the Big SKA Band.  They will play original reggae and ska arrangements of classical and gospel favorites.  Performers include: Joe Ferry, bass; Greg Mayo, guitar/vocals; Jerry Mitkowski, Hammond B3 organ; Stuart Stahr, drums; Brett Tubin, guitar; Katie Chauvot, trumpet; and Mike Eaton, trumpet.

Musical selections will include: "Stop the Circumstance" (SKA version of Pomp & Circumstance); excerpts from "Pachelbel’s Canon in D 3"; excerpts from "Don Giovanni Act II, Scene IV"; "When The Saints Go Marching In" (procession); "SKA Boss"; and "Satta Masa Ganna".

The National Anthem will be sung by senior Jeffrey Taveras of Lindenhurst, NY.

The senior speaker is Marissa La Rocca, Bellport LI, a Creative Writing student, who plans to become a college professor.

"For many graduating seniors," said Ms. La Rocca "Purchase College will be looked back on as a temporary bubble.  Most of us will move on with our lives, rent an apartment in Brooklyn, take the train to Manhattan every day, hoping to sell a painting or screenplay, or to get cast in a Broadway show.  We’ll find a trendy cafe with an inspirational atmosphere and spend $4 every morning on coffee."

"Although," she continues "it will be hard for me to forget Purchase and the many friends and teachers who have influenced me here, I will walk away from this brick campus with fuel and ammunition.  I want to shoot the world with a camera, paint explosions on canvasses, and use my pen like a sword.  If it takes a creative battle to plant a little more peace in this world, then that is just what this school has prepared me for."

A reception for the graduates and their families will follow the ceremony.


Honorary Degree Recipients

Frederick Wiseman

Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has produced 37 films over forty-two years ranging from early classics such as Titicut Follies, and High School to the more recent Public Housing, and Domestic Violence. Trained as a lawyer, he is a filmmaker whose work has chronicled the everyday travails of the least fortunate Americans.  An underlying theme is the individual’s attempt to preserve his or her humanity and dignity while struggling against laws and dehumanizing bureaucratic systems. Wiseman serves as the producer, director and editor of his films. His documentaries have been broadcast on public television and have won Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award among others.  His work in fiction and documentaries has been an inspiration to generations of film, sociology, cinema studies and journalism students and an example of true independent filmmaking.

Dianne McIntyre

Dianne McIntyre is a dancer and interdisciplinary artist. In her 30 year career she toured internationally with her dance/theatre company Sounds in Motion and has choreographed for nationally prominent companies such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and has mentored some of the leading dance-artists working today.  Her works have been performed at many theatres including Broadway, where her work for Joe Turner's Come and Gone is playing currently.

She has worked extensively in theatre, television and film in the United States and London for productions such as Beloved starring Oprah Winfrey and HBO's Miss Evers' Boys for which she received an Emmy nomination.

President’s Award for Distinguished Alumni

Chris Wedge

Chris Wedge is an Oscar-winning film, director, and producer, as well as the co-founder of Blue Sky Studios one of the top computer animation studios in the world.  He is a 1981 graduate of the Purchase College film department.  His film Bunny won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1998 and won 25 international awards for animation excellence.  He directed Blue Sky’s first two computer-generated animated feature films, Ice Age in 2002 and Robots in 2005. He was the executive producer of Ice Age: The Meltdown in 2006, which grossed in excess of $638 million dollars worldwide, and Horton Hears a Who, the first Dr. Seuss animated feature film.  He is currently executive producer of Blue Sky’s upcoming feature film Ice Age: Dawn of Dinosaurs.     

Donald Margulies
Donald Margulies is a distinguished Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and educator. The 1976 graduate, came to Purchase College to study art and became a playwright under the tutelage of critic and Professor Julius Novick.  His play Sight Unseen, a meditation on art, fame, money and lost love, earned him an Obie Award and was a finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.  His play Model Apartment confronted the Holocaust and garnered him a second Obie.  His play Dinner With Friends won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2000.  His plays are performed around the world.  Recently two new plays were performed simultaneously on the west coast and Off-Broadway.  Time Stands Still premiered at the Geffen playhouse in Los Angeles and Shipwrecked! was presented at Primary Stages in New York.

He teaches playwriting at Yale and serves on the Council of the dramatists Guild of America which advances the interests of playwrights, composers, lyricists and librettists writing for the stage.

Purchase College Student Chancellor Awards

The Chancellor's Awards for Student Excellence were created 12 years ago to recognize students who have demonstrated the integration of academic excellence with accomplishments in areas of leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts or career achievement.

Jennifer Bakalar of Westmoreland, NH, a visual arts major, was recognized as a modern renaissance woman with talent in dance, music, theater, and visual arts. Her paintings have been exhibited at Governor Paterson’s mansion and in President Schwarz’s conference room at Purchase College.  She has been named to the Dean's List five times.  She has served on the Neuberger Museum Programming Committee, worked on an Autism Speaks Fundraiser, and organized exhibitions for the Purchase Wide Open Arts Festival and the Downtown Cabaret, a Purchase College program in New York City.

Antonio Commisso of Flushing NY, a political science major, is credited with transforming the Student Government into a highly efficient organization during his terms as Chair of the Senate, Interim President, Coordinator of Finance, and Resident Senator.  He is a teaching assistant and peer advisor who has been on the Dean’s List for five semesters.  He was the recipient of a President's Award for Excellence, the Longman Publisher’s Writing Award, and the Fay and Kenneth Gang Scholarship.

Jessica Sugerman of Hillsdale NJ, a visual arts major, is a talented artist whose paintings and drawings have been featured on the covers of literary publications as well as in campus buildings. As President of the Arts Club she has promoted collaboration and implemented a number of campus programs at the Neuberger Museum that involved students from the arts and the liberal arts.  She has been a peer advisor for freshmen, a teaching assistant for painting students, and participated in Midnight Run, a program that delivers food and supplies to Manhattan's homeless and hungry. She also designed costumes and participated in a performance at Downtown Cabaret, a Purchase College Program in New York City.