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Poet Rita Dove named Emory commencement speaker

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Beverly Clark

Rita Dove. Photo © by Fred Viebahn.

Former United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Rita Dove will deliver the keynote address at the University’s 168th commencement ceremony Monday, May 13. She also will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree.

Dove is currently the Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia. She served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995, and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006.  A major figure in American and African American literature, Dove is known for her interdisciplinary approach and her collaborative ventures with composers, musicians and other artists.

"Rita Dove's contributions to our collective intellectual, creative and interdisciplinary life serve as an example of how to create new opportunities for community and collaboration. We are pleased to welcome her back to the Emory community, given her recent involvement through the Center for Women at Emory and the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference," says President James W. Wagner, who will preside over the ceremony for about 3,700 graduates.

Commencement will take place on the campus quadrangle with more than 14,000 expected to be in attendance. For details on commencement weekend, see

Dove has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She is the only poet to have received both the National Humanities Medal (in 1996) and the National Medal of Arts (in 2012). She was honored with the Library of Virginia's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and in 2009 she received the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal.

Two other individuals will join Dove this year as recipients of honorary degrees:

• Marguerite "Maggy" Barankitse, Burundi Humanitarian activist and president of Maison Shalom. Barankitse founded the multi-functional service agency Maison Shalom in the wake of severe ethnic violence between Tutsis and Hutus in Burundi in the early 1990's. Maison Shalom began in 1993 as a home for the 25 orphaned children who survived the attacks, and now helps heal and support 30,000 young people and families through health programs, vocational training and reconciliation; it strives to change the lives of children to better the lives of all Burundians. She will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

• Michael Graves, architect and designer.  Graves, known for redefining the architect’s role in society, is founding principal of the firm Michael Graves & Associates, and the Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus at Princeton University, where he taught for 39 years.  His influential designs extend from buildings including the iconic Denver Central Library and Emory's Michael C. Carlos Museum, to everyday objects such as his celebrated Alessi teakettle.  Attention to enhancing the user experience characterizes all his work, from luxury goods to products for Target Stores. He will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

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