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President Ruth Simmons will deliver the keynote address at the Rhode Island School of Design's commencement ceremony June 5.

Simmons, who will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree, was chosen to speak "for her distinguished career pursuing educational activism and excellence," said RISD spokesperson Jaime Marland.

The topic of the keynote address is still in the works, Simmons wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

"I am still writing my speech, so I can't tell you yet what it is likely to be," Simmons wrote. "RISD has asked that I address some dimension of the Brown-RISD relationship in light of our recent efforts to increase collaboration between RISD and Brown."

The design school's selection committee for honorary degree recipients and commencement speaker — which includes representatives from RISD's faculty, student body, Board of Trustees, the RISD Museum of Art and the library — reviewed nominees who were not trained in the traditional art and design fields, Marland said.

The committee "placed an emphasis on including a broad range of honorary degree recipients," Marland said, "to reflect their recognition that contemporary artists and designers are working and vital in all areas of society."

"Their focus was on selecting nominees who embody RISD's most prized values and aspirations, regardless of the field in which they choose to express them," she added.

Simmons wrote that "ultimately" the focus of her speech is "likely to be on the importance of bringing art and design to bear on a wide range of fields of endeavor."

Others who will be honored at the ceremony include illustrator and graphic designer Seymour Chwast, art collector and philanthropist Paula Granoff and comic and graphic artist Art Spiegelman P'13, who lectured at Brown April 14.

Past RISD commencement speakers include Gore Vidal, Laurie Anderson, Ken Robinson, Kurt Andersen, Dave Hickey and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Marland said.

Simmons will also be awarded an honorary degree from Wesleyan University May 23.
She holds honorary degrees from more than 25 institutions, including Amherst College, Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia and Spelman College.




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