April 22, 2013
Nikki Giovanni, the renowned poet, activist and educator, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree when UNC Asheville holds its May 2013 Commencement. Warren Haynes, the rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, and creator of Asheville's annual Christmas Jam, also will receive an honorary degree. The ceremony begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 11.
Giovanni, the author of some 30 books for both children and adults, is one of America's most widely read poets and is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. Her many honors include the 1996 Langston Hughes Medal from The City College of New York, a medal also awarded to Chinua Achebe, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. In 2007, Giovanni became the first poet to win the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, bestowed by the Chicago Public Library and its foundation.
Giovanni first spoke at UNC Asheville in 1973 as the keynote presenter at a Black Arts Festival organized by the university's Black Student Association. Audrey Byrd Mosley, then a UNC Asheville student, performed at that same festival in a one-act play. Mosley went on to become general counsel for the National Academy of Sciences and is a member of UNC Asheville's Board of Trustees. Giovanni became a leading figure in American culture, named Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle, Ladies' Home Journal and Ebony magazines, and one of Oprah Winfrey's 25 "Living Legends."
Known for her outspoken advocacy for civil rights, Giovanni was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, bestowed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Troy University in Montgomery, Ala. Many of her books have been honored with NAACP Image Awards, including Love Poems, Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea, Acolytes, and Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat.
Haynes gained fame for his singing, guitar work and songwriting as a member of the Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh and Friends, and The Dead. He also is a founding member of Gov't Mule, which continues to thrive after almost two decades and 16 albums. Additionally, Haynes has performed and/or recorded with Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Dave Matthews, Kid Rock, James Hetfield, John Lee Hooker and other leading musicians. Haynes has won several Grammy awards and ranks at number 23 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."
An Asheville native, Haynes has used his annual Warren Haynes Presents Christmas Jam to give back to the city. Thanks to his talents, creative vision and musical relationships, the Jam has grown into one of Asheville's favorite music events and an important date on the national rock music calendar. Haynes also has used the Jam to raise more than $1 million for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.
UNC Asheville's May 2013 Commencement will take place on the University Quadrangle. Graduates will begin lining up in front of the Student Recreation Center on campus at 8 a.m. before walking to the quad for the 9 a.m. ceremony. In case of forecasts of severe weather, the ceremony may be moved indoors to the Kimmel Arena.
For more information, visit UNC Asheville's Office of Alumni Relations and University Events website or call 828.251.6512.