Commencement Speakers and Honoree Biographies

Jane Alexander
Jane AlexanderMs. Jane Alexander: Actor and Arts Advocate
Undergraduate Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient

Born in Boston, Alexander attended Beaver Country Day School, where she first aspired to acting and made her stage debut. She experienced success early in her acting career, garnering a Tony and Drama Desk awards for her portrayal of Eleanor Bachman in The Great White Hope and Eleanor Roosevelt in two television productions.

In 1993, Alexander took a sabbatical from acting when President Clinton appointed her as the Chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts.  During her four-year tenure at the NEA, she showed tremendous courage in fighting for and saving funding for the arts.

In 2004, Alexander joined the theater faculty at Florida State University.  She holds honorary doctorates from 11 colleges and universities in the U.S.  She has been active on many national boards promoting the environment, women's health, nuclear disarmament and the arts.  She has received numerous awards including the 2011, "No Ordinary Time, No Ordinary Woman" award to benefit the preservation of Eleanor Roosevelt's home, Val-Kil.

Wintley Phipps
Wintley PhippsMr. Wintley Phipps: Vocal Artist, Motivational Speaker, Pastor, and Education Activist
Graduate Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient

Born in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Wintley Phipps moved to Montreal at an early age and then studied at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, and earned a Masters of Divinity from Andres University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.  Phipps is a world-renowned vocal artist who has used his tremendous musical talent to inspire hope throughout the world.

He has performed for seven Presidential Inaugurations, including Presidents Barack Obama, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.  For more than twenty-five years, Phipps has traveled the world delivering messages of hope, advocacy, and equality to many thousands of people.

In 1998, Phipps founded and created the U.S. Dream Academy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children who have had a family member incarcerated.  The program provides mentoring, academic tutoring, and exposure to education support.  Currently, the U.S. Dream Academies are located in 11 cities throughout the United Sates.  What began as a dream for Phipps now encompasses the dreams of thousands of elementary and middle school children, sparking the support of national figures such as Oprah Winfrey and former President Bill Clinton.

Kathryn Lasky
Kathryn LaskyMs. Kathryn Lasky '78MS: Author and Children's Literacy Advocate
Honorary Degree Recipient

Kathryn Lasky is a former teacher, a strong public advocate for children's literacy, and a widely recognized, award-winning writer of books for children and young adults. Her more than 100 books range from critically acclaimed nonfiction titles such as Sugaring Time and historical fiction in the Dear America series to the wildly popular Guardians of Ga'Hoole fantasy series about owls, which was adapted for the award-winning animated feature film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.

Ms. Lasky and her books have received countless awards, which include the Newbery Honor award, the National Jewish Book Award, the ALA best book for young adults, and the Washington Post Children's Book Guild award. Her books range from picture books for preschoolers and middle-grade fiction to extensively researched and thought-provoking novels for young adults on such serious subjects as slavery, censorship, and anti-Semitism.

Tamara EmersonMs. Tamara Pace-Emerson
Undergraduate Student Speaker

Every year, the College selects one graduating Senior to address their class at Commencement. This year, the honor goes to Tamara Pace-Emerson, who will be graduating with a professional major in Elementary Education, as well as a Bachelors of Math and Science. She also has a minor in Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy.

She has lived in the Boston area almost all of her life and dedicated two years to City Year Boston prior to attending Wheelock. It was during this time that Tam learned about her passion for community service, children and education. Tam also went to London during her sophomore year to be part of a four-person start-up team for the first ever City Year London site. Tam recently accepted a summer Research Fellowship with the American Cancer Society.

Thomas BentleyMr. Thomas W. Bentley
Graduate Student Speaker

Every year, the College selects one Graduate student to address their class at Commencement. This year, the honor goes to Thomas W. Bentley, who will receive an M.S. from Wheelock College's Organizational Leadership program. He studied Philosophy at Roger Williams University, where he graduated summa cum laude and was a member of the Varsity Sailing Team. Mr. Bentley is currently the Youth Outreach Coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay. He resides in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.

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