Thursday, May 1, 2008

NEH Chairman Bruce Cole, "Wire" Creator David Simon, Singer-Songwriter Patty Griffin to Address Washington College's 2008 Graduating Class, May 18

Chestertown, MD — Three prominent figures in various fields of the arts will address the graduates at Washington College's 2008 Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 18.

Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities; David Simon, creator of the hit HBO drama "The Wire" and other acclaimed works; and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Patty Griffin will receive honorary degrees and be guest speakers at this year's Commencement.

Ceremonies will begin at 10:30 a.m. on the Campus Lawn. Rain site is the Benjamin A. Johnson Lifetime Fitness Center by ticket only.

A highlight of Washington College's Commencement is the annual awarding of the Sophie Kerr Prize, the largest undergraduate literary prize in the nation. It's larger than ever this year, totaling $67,481.41.

The prize was established by the will of the late Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, Md., whose generosity has done so much to enrich the College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to the College, specifying that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor" and the other half be used to bring visiting writers to campus, to fund scholarships, and to help defray the costs of student publications.

The 2008 Commencement culminates a year-long celebration of Washington College's 225th anniversary. Anniversary events have been anchored around three themes reflecting salient aspects of the College's mission: "Making History," "Exploring Our Environment" and "Fostering a Haven for the Arts."

The upcoming Commencement reflects the arts theme, as represented by the honorary-degree recipients/guest speakers.

Bruce Cole took the helm at the National Endowment of the Humanities in December 2001, coming from Indiana University in Bloomington, where he was Distinguished Professor of Art History and Professor of Comparative Literature.

Appointed by President George W. Bush, Cole was chosen for a second term in 2005, a reappointment unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate.

Cole has written 14 books, many of them about the Renaissance. They include The Renaissance Artist at Work; Sienese Painting in the Age of the Renaissance; Italian Art, 1250-1550: The Relation of Art to Life and Society; Titian and Venetian Art, 1450-1590; andArt of the Western World: From Ancient Greece to Post-Modernism. His most recent book isThe Informed Eye: Understanding Masterpieces of Western Art.

Author, journalist and TV writer-producer David Simon was a City Desk reporter at theBaltimore Sun for 12 years. His coverage of the Baltimore Police Department's homicide unit led to his first book, the acclaimed Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, which won the 1992 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime Book. It later spawned the popular TV series "Homicide: Life on the Street," for which Simon contributed teleplays that garnered him a WGA Award for Best Writing in a Drama.

Simon's next book, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-city Neighborhood, painted a grim, vivid portrait of a drug-plagued community. The subsequent HBO mini-series "The Corner," co-scripted and produced by Simon, won three Emmy Awards.

Simon's latest success is "The Wire," the recently concluded smash-hit HBO drama. Meanwhile, he continues to work as a freelance journalist, writing for such publications asThe Washington Post, The New Republic and Details magazine.

Maine native Patty Griffin went from playing guitar and singing in New England coffeehouses to international fame. The Grammy Award-nominated musician's songs have been performed by a variety of artists including the Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler, Linda Ronstadt, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Kelly Clarkson and Martina McBride.

Griffin's hit albums include Living With Ghosts, Flaming Red, 1000 Kisses and Children Running Through. In 2007 she received the Americana Music Association's highest honor as Artist of the Year.

May 1, 2008

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