Published: Dec. 2, 2014

Award-winning filmmaker to address December graduates

Contact(s): Kristen Parker University Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709

Documentarian Michael Moore will be one of three speakers at Michigan State University’s December commencement ceremonies.

Graduation ceremonies will be held Dec. 12-13 at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center, 534 Birch Road. Twitter users are invited to use #MSUgrad14 to follow ceremonies.

Moore will speak at the 2 p.m. Dec. 13 ceremony and will receive an honorary doctorate of humanities. He will address undergraduates from the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Communication Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Natural Science and Nursing, as well as Lyman Briggs College.

Also at that ceremony, Kristin Clark Taylor, White House director of media relations under former President George H.W. Bush, will earn an honorary doctorate of humanities.

Earlier in the day, George Will, Washington Post columnist, will speak at 10 a.m., and will receive an honorary doctorate of humanities. Graduates from the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and James Madison College will join those from the colleges of Arts and Letters, Business, Education, Music and Social Science for the morning ceremony.

In addition, the Rev. James Wallis, spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama, will receive an honorary doctorate of humanities at that ceremony.

The advanced degree ceremony will be held at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 12, and Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, will address graduates. She will receive an honorary doctorate of laws. Also receiving an honorary doctorate of laws will be Robert Clark Jr., a retired Mississippi legislator and civil rights advocate.

“We have a dynamic combination of commencement speakers, whose diverse opinions will provide our graduates with interesting perspectives and stimulating conversation,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “The respectful exchange of differing viewpoints is a marker of the healthy intellectual environment Michigan State models.”

Consistent with Breslin Center policy, all bags will be subject to search. No food or beverages – including bottled water – will be allowed into Breslin Center, and this applies to graduates, guests and faculty participating in the ceremonies. As such, Breslin will offer a limited menu of concessions for sale one hour prior to the start of ceremonies and during the first hour of ceremonies. Additional prohibited items include large cameras, recording devices, noisemakers, sticks, pets, signs or weapons of any form. Smoking also is prohibited at the Breslin Center.

Also, anyone who disrupts the commencement ceremonies from inside the Breslin Center will be removed by police and could face arrest. Those who prevent attendees from entering the building also will be removed from the premises and could face arrest. Per MSU policy, those wishing to protest a commencement speaker will be allowed to do so peacefully outside the Breslin Center or inside the building, as long as they do not block entrances or exits to the building or disrupt the ceremony in any way.

Biographies of the speakers and honorary degree recipients follow.

Michael Moore

Moore was born in Flint, Michigan, and at age 18, he became the youngest elected official in the country when he won a seat on the Davison Board of Education.

In 1989, Moore’s first film, “Roger & Me,” gave birth to the modern documentary movement. After breaking box office records, he won an Oscar and the Palme d’Or award with his next films, “Bowling for Columbine,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Sicko.”

In addition, Moore won the first-ever prime-time Emmy for a nonfiction series with his groundbreaking satire, “TV Nation.”

One of America’s top-selling nonfiction authors, eight of his books have made the New York Times Best-Seller List.

A lifelong supporter of Michigan’s film industry and the Northern Michigan economy, Moore founded and runs the Traverse City Film Festival and two art house movie theaters, the State Theatre and the Bijou by the Bay. He currently resides in Traverse City, Michigan.

George Will

Today’s most widely read newspaper columnist, The Washington Post has syndicated Will’s column since 1974. It now appears twice weekly in about 500 newspapers in the United States and Europe. And in 1977, Will won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his columns.

Altogether, eight collections of Will’s Newsweek and Washington Post columns have been published. His new book, “A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred,” was released in March. Will is a member of Major League Baseball’s Blue Ribbon Panel, examining baseball economics.

For 32 years Will served as a panelist on ABC television’s, “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” and in 2013 he became a contributor to Fox News’ daytime and prime-time programming.

Teresa Sullivan

Sullivan became the eighth president of the University of Virginia in 2010.

Prior to her presidency, she served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan. Sullivan also held various positions at the University of Texas, including executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, vice president and graduate dean and vice provost.

An alumna of MSU’s James Madison College, Sullivan was part of the college’s first graduating class and was a member of the Honors College. In 2004, she received a Distinguished Alumna Award from James Madison. Sullivan earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago.

She is a well-known sociologist with more than 80 peer-reviewed articles and six books to her credit.

Robert Clark Jr.

A graduate of Jackson State University, Clark received his master’s degree in administration and education services from MSU’s College of Education. After the passage of the U.S. Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, Clark returned to his home state of Mississippi. In 1967, he became the first African American to be elected to the Mississippi legislature since Reconstruction.

Among Clark’s many accomplishments as chairman of the education committee of the state House of Representatives, he was instrumental, along with former Mississippi Gov. William Winter, in passing landmark education reform legislation in 1982. The law established state-supported kindergartens, improved school finance and enhanced teacher education among other reforms.

Prior to Clark’s retirement from the legislature in 2003, he was elected Speaker Pro Tempore of the Mississippi House of Representatives.

In recent years he has remained active in a variety of education and civil rights efforts, including the Robert Clark Institute for Human Development, which assists at-risk youth and young adults.

The Rev. James Wallis

Wallis is a nationally recognized author, public theologian, speaker and columnist who lives and works at the intersection of faith and public life.

He has written 11 books, some of which have appeared on the New York Times Best-Sellers List, and he appears frequently as a guest or commentator on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News the Daily Show, NPR and other radio networks.

Wallis is the president and founder of Sojourners, a nonprofit faith-based organization, network and movement whose mission statement calls for “putting faith into action for social justice.” He’s also editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine.

Committed to mentoring, Wallis has taught courses on faith and politics at a number of educational intuitions, including Harvard and Georgetown.

Raised in Detroit, Wallis is an alumnus of MSU and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois.

Kristin Clark Taylor

Taylor is an award-winning author, veteran journalist and nationally recognized communications strategist.

She is a founding member of USA Today’s original creation and launch team, where she worked as an editorial writer and editor. As a White House communications strategist, she was White House director of media relations under former President George H.W. Bush, the first African American woman to hold the title.

The author of four books, her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Washingtonian Magazine and many other outlets.

Taylor is an MSU alumna and recently received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Arts and Letters. In May, Taylor was named to the college’s Alumni Board of Directors.