The Commencement 2018 address will be given by Stephen Tobolowsky, who is a frequent visiting artist at Cornish. Also to be honored at the ceremony will be Spectrum Dance’s Artistic Director Donald Byrd, executive director of Hedgebrook Amy Wheeler, and alumni Greg Bennick ’94 and Kate Harmer ’05.
The Commencement ceremony returns to Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle on May 13, 7:30 p.m.
Honorary Doctorate degrees will be awarded to actor/writer Stephen Tobolowsky, Spectrum Dance’s Artistic Director Donald Byrd, and playwright Amy Wheeler, executive director of Hedgebrook. Teaching excellence awards will go to Cornish faculty Sharon Arnold, Carl Bronsdon, Johanye Kendrick, and Robert Rhee. This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award will go to Greg Bennick (’94) and the Distinguished Recent Alumni Award will go to Kate Harmer (’05).
The Commencement address will be given by Tobolowsky, who is a frequent visiting artist at Cornish. Tobolowsky has generously shared his wit, wisdom, and experience with Cornish students in Film and Theater classes.
Following the presentation of honorary degrees and awards, Acting President Star Hang Nga Rush will confer degrees on the graduating seniors. Cornish College of the Arts awards Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art, Dance, Design, Film, Interior Architecture, Performance Production, and Theater.
A renowned character actor, Tobolowsky has appeared in more than 100 movies and more than 200 television shows. Along with the popular podcast “The Tobolowsky Files,” he wrote and performed Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party and The Primary Instinct, and wrote True Stories with David Byrne and Beth Henley. His books include The Dangerous Animals Club (2012) and My Adventures with God (2017).
Byrd, a TONY nominated (The Color Purple) and Bessie Award winning (The Minstrel Show) choreographer, became the artistic director of Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater in 2002. His many awards and honors include a Masters of Choreography Award from The Kennedy Center; a Fellowship at The American Academy of Jerusalem; a James Baldwin Fellow of United States Artists; and the Mayor’s Arts Award for his sustained contributions to the City of Seattle. In recent years, his explorations of race and other socially relevant themes have shown that dance, and all the arts, are a powerful and important way to examine these issues.
As executive director of Hedgebrook, Wheeler has led the organization from a small local nonprofit to a global community of women authoring change, recognized for supporting and nurturing the careers of some of the most influential writers, poets, playwrights, filmmakers, and songwriters of our time. Under her leadership, Hedgebrook has been selected for the Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award for Arts and Innovation, and an achievement award from Humanitas. Wheeler is a playwright, actor, and alumna of Hedgebrook and Yaddo, and has taught playwriting at Cornish.
Theater alumnus Bennick receives the Distinguished Alumni Award for his work on social justice issues. As executive director of One Hundred For Haiti, Bennick facilitates development projects about cholera and anti-sexual-assault in extremely rural parts of Haiti. His film projects Flight From Death, The Philosopher Kings, and the currently in production On the Wild Side and Holding These Moments have been released worldwide.
This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Recent Alumni Award is Design graduate Harmer. She founded the boutique Seattle design and branding firm Hum Creative in 2010 with the vision of building a progressive design studio that prioritized office culture and a healthy work/life balance. Harmer is active in the design community, guest lecturing at schools, participating in panel discussions, and hosting industry events. She has been featured in Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, and Gray Magazine.