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Emerson College’s 138th Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies

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Michelle Gaseau, 617-824-3547,

(April 10, 2018) BOSTON, MA—On Sunday, May 13, 2018, during Emerson College’s 138th Undergraduate Commencement ceremony, celebrated poet and former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins; Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice and Emerson Alum Elspeth Cypher ‘80; Award–Winning Documentary Film Director Deeyah Khan; and Best-Selling author Tom Perrotta will each receive honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Collins will give the undergraduate address and Khan will give the graduate address.

Approximately 990 undergraduates and 270 graduate students will receive their degrees during Commencement ceremonies that will be held at the Agganis Arena at Boston University, 925 Commonwealth Avenue. The undergraduate ceremony will begin at 10:00 am, followed by the graduate ceremony at 3:00 pm. Both ceremonies will be streamed live at

Billy Collins, former United States Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, is a Guggenheim fellow and a New York Public Library “Literary Lion” whose work has appeared in a variety of periodicals including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The American Scholar. His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry and he appears frequently on National Public Radio. Collins sees his poetry as “a form of travel writing” and considers humor “a door into the serious.” Billy Collins has published 12 collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, Sailing Alone Around the Room and has edited two anthologies of contemporary poetry: Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, and he was the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2006. His book, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems 2003 – 2013, was a New York Times bestseller. His most recent book of poetry, titled The Rain in Portugal, is also a New York Times bestseller. Billy Collins has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also been awarded the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, and the Levinson Prize — by Poetry magazine and many others. He was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry and in 2016 he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters. 

Elspeth “Ellie” B. Cypher was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was appointed to her current position as Associate Justice to the Supreme Judicial Court by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in February 2017. She received a B.A., magna cum laude, from Emerson College in 1980 and a J.D., cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School in 1986, where she served on the Suffolk University Law Review. From 1986 to 1988, she was an associate at the Boston law firm of Grayer, Brown and Dilday. In 1988 she became an Assistant District Attorney in Bristol County, where she served for 12 years. From 1993 to 2000, she was chief of the Appellate Division of that office and in 2000 Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci appointed her to the Appeals Court; she took her seat as an Associate Justice on December 27, 2000. For many years, Justice Cypher was an adjunct professor at Southern New England School of Law (now the University of Massachusetts School of Law – Dartmouth), where she taught courses on legal writing; criminal procedure; criminal law; and women, law, and the legal system. Active in the Massachusetts Bar Association, Justice Cypher has served as co-chair of its criminal law section. She was the recipient of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly's Lawyer of the Year Award in 2000. In 2012, she co-authored a fourth edition of Justice Kent B. Smith’s books in the Massachusetts Practice Series, Criminal Practice and Procedure. She assumed authorship of the three volume series in 2013 and published a fourth edition in 2014.

Deeyah Khan is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning documentary film director and founder of Fuuse, a media and arts company that puts women, people from minorities, and third-culture kids at the heart of telling their own stories. In 2016, she became the first UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for artistic freedom and creativity. She has received many honors for her work supporting freedom of expression, human rights and peace including the Ossietzky Prize, the University of Oslo’s Human Rights Award and the Peer Gynt Prize from the Parliament of Norway.  Born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi ancestry, Deeyah’s experience of living between different cultures, both the beauty and the challenges, shapes her artistic vision. Her 2012 multi-award winning documentary Banaz: A Love Story chronicles the life and death of Banaz Mahmod, a young British Kurdish woman murdered by her family in a so-called honor killing. Her second film, the Grierson and Bafta award-nominated Jihad, involved two years of interviews and filming with Islamic extremists, convicted terrorists and former jihadis. For her most recent BAFTA-nominated film, White Right: Meeting the Enemy, Deeyah sat down face-to-face with US neo-Nazis and white nationalists. According to The Times of London, “To say Deeyah Khan is an inspiration is an understatement. She is one of the bravest, most indomitable women… facing down bullies and extremists with intelligence and unflinching spirit.”

Tom Perrotta, an American novelist and screen writer, is the bestselling author of nine works of fiction, including Election and Little Children, both of which were made into Academy Award-nominated films, and The Leftovers, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning HBO series. Perrotta served as an executive producer and writer on the show. His other books include Bad Haircut, The Wishbones, Joe College, The Abstinence Teacher, Nine Inches, and his latest, Mrs. Fletcher, whose parallel narratives trace the evolution of a mother and son's individual attitudes toward sex and morality. His work has been translated into a multitude of languages. He has written reviews for the New York Times Book Review as well as commentary for GQ, New York Times Magazine and The Guardian. He holds a BA from Yale University and an MFA from Syracuse University. Perrotta grew up in New Jersey and lives outside of Boston.

About Emerson College 

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. The College has 3,780 undergraduates and 670 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 90 student organizations and performance groups. Emerson is known for its experiential learning programs in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, the Netherlands, London, China, and the Czech Republic. The College has an active network of 39,000 alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit


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