Honorary Degrees Conferred


DiDonato to Speak at Commencement

Top row, from left: Viola Davis, Frank Owen Gehry, Philip Glass, Marcus Roberts. Bottom row, from left: Joyce DiDonato, Suzanne and Bruce Kovner, Lar Lubovitch.

 (Photo by Top: Art Streiber. dbox, Steve Pyke, John Douglas: bottom: Simon Pauly, Nan Melville (2))

Juilliard’s 109th commencement takes place on May 23, and in addition to the nearly 300 students receiving degrees, an illustrious group will be awarded honorary doctorates. It will be streamed live at live.juilliard.edu. Honorary Doctor of Music degrees will go to commencement speaker Joyce DiDonato, a mezzo-soprano; architect Frank Owen Gehry, jazz musician Marcus Roberts, and composer Philip Glass (Diploma ’60, M.S. ’62, composition). Actress Viola Davis (Group 22) and choreographer Lar Lubovitch (’64, dance) will be granted honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees, while Juilliard Chairman Bruce Kovner and his wife, Suzanne F. Kovner, will receive honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters.


Film, television, and theater actress Viola Davis, who graduated from Juilliard in 1993, began her career on the stage, where her portrayal of Tonya in August Wilson’s King Hedley II earned her 2001 Tony and Drama Desk best actress awards. She also received a Tony in 2010 for her role as Rose Maxson in the Broadway revival of Wilson’s Fences. Originally from South Carolina, Davis holds an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from her undergraduate alma mater, Rhode Island College.

Davis has been in 23 films and her performances in The Help (2011) and Doubt (2008) each netted her Oscar nominations. Among her upcoming film roles are as a costar of an as yet untitled cyber- thriller by director Michael Mann that is slated to open in 2015 and as soul legend James Brown’s mother, Susie, in Get on Up, directed by Tate Taylor. Due out this summer, the film also stars Nelsan Ellis (Group 33); Chadwick Boseman plays James Brown.

Davis has been in more than 40 episodes of television dramas and recently signed on to star in Shonda Rhimes’s How to Get Away With Murder on ABC. Her television credits include NYPD Blue, Providence, Law & Order, C.S.I., Jesse Stone, Without a Trace, and United States of Tara, for which she was nominated for an N.A.A.C.P. Image Award for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. 

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato gained prominence in large part through her performances of operas by Rossini, Handel, and Mozart. She’s currently singing the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Metropolitan Opera (remaining performances are on May 2, 6, and 10; the last one will be simulcast broadcast on the radio and in HD). Earlier this season, she portrayed Romeo in Opera Kansas City’s production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi; she will take the title role in the Royal Opera House’s production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda from July 5 to 18. Among her many upcoming performances are a trio of recitals at Carnegie Hall, in November, February, and March.

Born in Kansas and a graduate of Wichita (Kan.) State University and the Academy of Vocal Arts, in Philadelphia, DiDonato went on to train in young-artist programs with the San Francisco, Houston, and Santa Fe opera companies. Her formidable discography includes Diva Divo (Erato/Warner Classics), which won her the 2012 Grammy for best classical vocal solo. ReJoyce!, a retrospective of her first 10 years of recordings, was released last summer. DiDonato is also an inductee of the Gramophone Hall of Fame, and the recipient of numerous professional and artistic awards and accolades. In October 2013, she gave the second in a pair of very popular master classes at Juilliard; the first one took place the previous January.

Raised in Toronto, architect Frank Owen Gehry moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1947, and he received his bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1954 from the University of Southern California. He also studied city planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Gehry established his architecture practice in Los Angeles in 1962.

Some of Gehry’s most notable projects include Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A.; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.; the New World Symphony’s New World Center in Miami; and Experience Music Project in Seattle. His current projects include the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a tower for the Luma Foundation’s Parc des Ateliers in Arles, France, the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the West Campus for Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif. 

Among the accolades Gehry has won for his architectural work are the Arnold W. Brunner, Pritzker, Friedrich Kiesler, and Wolf prizes; the Praemium Imperiale and Dorothy and Lillian Gish awards; the National Medal of Arts; and the American Institute of Architects and Royal Institute of British Architects gold medals.

Born in Baltimore, composer Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where he studied mathematics and philosophy, and Juilliard, where he received his master’s in composition in 1962 and studied with Vincent Persichetti (faculty 1947-87) and William Bergsma (faculty 1946-63). After graduating, Glass studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris for two years, earning extra money by transcribing Ravi Shankar’s Indian music into Western notation.

Glass’s compositions include chamber and musical theater works, 10 symphonies, and numerous operas and film scores. His scores for Kundun (1997), The Hours (2002), and Notes on a Scandal (2006) were nominated for Academy Awards, and his music from The Truman Show (1998) earned a 1999 Golden Globe. He was a cofounder of the iconic Mabou Mines Theater Company, and his longstanding collaboration with Robert Wilson began with their groundbreaking opera Einstein on the Beach (1975).

The composer’s 75th birthday, on January 31, 2012, was the occasion for the U.S. premiere of his Ninth Symphony; his 10th premiered that summer and his operas The Perfect American and Spuren de Verirrten both premiered in 2013. Glass continues to compose, perform, and give lectures around the world and also appears regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble, which he formed in the 1960s. On October 10, Music Theatre Wales will premiere an opera he composed based on Franz Kafka’s The Trial (libretto by Christopher Hampton) at London’s Royal Opera House. 

Longtime friends of Juilliard Bruce Kovner, the chairman of Juilliard’s board, and his wife, Suzanne F. Kovner, a founding member of the Drama Council, will receive honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. The Kovners’ generosity to the School has ranged from the donation of an extraordinary manuscript collection to gifts that helped establish the Historical Performance program, and, most recently, the Kovner Fellows program, which was announced last fall. When fully implemented, the program will cover the full cost of attendance and include an annual professional enrichment stipend for approximately 50 students. 

Bruce Kovner received his B.A. from Harvard College in 1966 and later studied at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He founded Caxton Associates, a diversified trading company, in 1983 and served as its chairman until his retirement, in 2011. A year later, he established Caxton Alternative Management LP to manage his investment, trading, and business activities. He is the vice chairman of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and also serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Opera, the American Enterprise Institute, and Synta Pharmaceuticals.

Suzie Kovner, who received her bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 1990, is a trustee of Carnegie Hall and leads the Ensemble ACJW’s advocacy group. She is also on the board of the American Associates of the National Theatre of Great Britain and a member-at-large of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s administrative board. The couple’s Kovner Foundation supports education innovation, reform, and performing arts institutions in the United States and Europe.

Originally from Chicago, Lar Lubovitch studied dance at Juilliard with Martha Graham (faculty 1951-77), José Limón (faculty 1951-72), and Anthony Tudor (faculty 1951-71). He founded the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in 1968 in New York City, and his dances are performed regularly by companies around the world. His version of Othello, performed by the San Francisco Ballet as an episode of PBS’s Great Performances, earned an Emmy nomination.

Lubovitch’s forays into ice dancing have included creating dances for Olympic skaters John Curry, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, Brian Orser, JoJo Starbuck, and Paul Wylie. He’s also choreographed ice dances for television including The Sleeping Beauty on PBS and The Planets on A&E. His Broadway credits include Into the Woods, The Red Shoes, and a revival of The King and I that won a Tony Award in 1996.

In 2007, Lubovitch helped form the Chicago Dancing Festival, a series of free performances by major American dance companies. In 2011 he was made a Ford Fellow and given the Dance/USA Honor Award; he received the American Dance Guild’s lifetime achievement award in 2013. His work was most recently seen at Juilliard in March, when his Concerto Six Twenty-Two was part of the annual Juilliard Dances Repertory. 

A pianist and composer known for bridging the gap between the jazz and classical worlds, Marcus Roberts grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., where he was heavily influenced by the gospel music sung by his mother and at church. At age 5 he lost his sight, but he soon began teaching himself piano, starting formal lessons at age 12 and later studying classical piano at Florida State University. 

Roberts has received numerous commissioning awards, and his recordings include jazz standards arranged for solo piano, duets, and trio, original suites, large ensemble works, and performances with symphony orchestras. After recording with major labels for 20 years, Roberts started his own, J-Master Records, in 2009; among his numerous releases are 2013 live and studio albums featuring the Marcus Roberts Trio and Wynton Marsalis (’81, trumpet), the incoming director of Juilliard Jazz.

Roberts first performed as a soloist with a symphony orchestra in 1992, with Marin Alsop (Pre-College ’72; B.M ’77, M.M. ’78, violin) and the Concordia Orchestra. Since that time, he has performed with orchestras all over the world, but most frequently with his mentor Seiji Ozawa. Roberts premiered his first piano concerto, Spirit of the Blues: Piano Concerto in C Minor, with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 2013. In addition to serving on the Florida State University music faculty and as the associate artistic director for the Savannah (Ga.) Music Festival, Roberts works to develop technology to make composition easier for blind musicians.

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