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USM to observe 141st Commencement with virtual celebration

Best-selling author and national anti-racism thought leader Ibram X. Kendi will deliver the keynote address; Human Biology major Grace Muheto ’21 of Portland will deliver the student Commencement address.

The University of Southern Maine will observe its 141st Commencement with a virtual celebration, featuring a keynote address by best-selling author and national anti-racism thought leader Ibram X. Kendi and a senior address by Human Biology major Grace Muheto of Portland.

In addition to pieces performed by students from USM’s School of Music, the YouTube-based virtual Commencement ceremony will feature remarks from USM’s four honorary degree recipients: Yvon Chouinard, author, activist, and founder of Patagonia Inc.; Timothy P. Wilson, senior advisor and director of the Maine Seeds Programs; and Beverly and David Worthington, co-founders of the Worthington Scholarship Foundation.

USM’s Class of 2021 will feature 1,665 graduates. They will receive eight doctorates, 240 graduate degrees, and 1,237 undergraduate degrees. The virtual Commencement video, which will be available on USM’s Commencement website, will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, and will include individual recognition of each USM graduate.

Participants in the virtual celebration also will include USM President Glenn Cummings, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Jeannine Diddle Uzzi, and USM's newest Distinguished Professor Shelton Waldrep, Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English.

Ibram X. Kendi, Keynote Speaker

A photo of Ibram X. Kendi

Photo by Stephen Voss

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. Professor Kendi is the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. He is the author of many books, including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest ever winner of that award. He also authored three #1 New York Times bestsellers: How to Be an AntiracistStamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. His newest books are Be Antiracist: A Journal for Awareness, Reflection, and Action; and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, co-edited with Keisha Blain, which will be out in February. In 2020, Time magazine named Professor Kendi one of the 100 most influential people in the world. His book How to Be an Antiracist continues to be USM's common read. 

Grace Muheto ’21, Senior Speaker

A photo of USM senior Grace Muheto

A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Grace Muheto ’21 was 14 when she left home. Along with her mother and two brothers, she journeyed to Rwanda before arriving in Maine in January 2014. She attended Deering High School in Portland and enrolled at the University of Southern Maine in the fall of 2017. On Saturday, May 8, 2021, she will receive a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology with minors in Biochemistry and Psychology. Following graduation, she plans to explore her interest in medicine and perhaps pursue a master’s degree in Nursing at USM. She also plans to pursue work as a motivational speaker.

Dr. Shelton Waldrep, Distinguished Professor

A photo of Distinguished Professor Shelton Waldrep

Reserved for USM faculty members who have already achieved the rank of Professor, the title “Distinguished Professor” is awarded to USM faculty who have demonstrated exceptional scholarly or creative work and instructional leadership across a broad disciplinary or interdisciplinary range. In this context, leadership may refer to such qualities as substantial publication in scholarly and/or other peer-reviewed venues whose impact shapes the field; a substantial body of creative work bringing national recognition; peer and professional recognition of scholarship through the bestowal of awards and grants; frequent citation of scholarly work by others directly in the disciplinary field or related fields; noteworthy service to a professional organization or publication; peer recognition of excellence and innovation in teaching; a documented record of mentoring emerging teachers or scholars at USM or elsewhere and outstanding public service clearly aligned with and growing out of a professional base of knowledge.

Dr. Shelton Waldrep teaches classes on Victorian literature, popular culture, film, and critical theory at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of The Dissolution of Place: Architecture, Identity, and the Body and The Aesthetics of Self-Invention: Oscar Wilde to David Bowie; the co-author of Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World; and the editor of The Seventies: The Age of Glitter in Popular Culture.

His latest book is titled Future Nostalgia: Performing David Bowie. He has published articles, interviews, and poetry in numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers worldwide and has been awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher-Scholar Award, the Faculty Senate Award for Excellence in Scholarship, and the Trustee Professorship.

He is the recipient of a Center for Collaboration and Development Grant and a Faculty Senate Research Grant, among others. His current book project is on images of the body in 21st-century film and television. A graduate of Duke University and the University of Alabama, Waldrep has taught at USM since 1998. He currently serves as chair of the English Department.

Yvon Chouinard, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

A photograph of Yvon Chouinard

Photo by Lucia Griggi

Yvon Chouinard is an itinerant adventurer, passionate activist, and iconoclastic businessperson. In 1973, he founded Patagonia, a mission-driven company known for its environmental and social initiatives. He later co-founded the Fair Labor Association, 1% for the Planet, the Textile Exchange, the Conservation Alliance, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. He is a surfer, mountain climber, gardener, falconer, and is particularly fond of Tenkara fly fishing. His business memoir, Let My People Go Surfing, has been published in 16 languages and has sold more than 500,000 copies. His latest, Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport, is a selection of his favorite accounts and memories that reveals the evolution of his thoughts and philosophies. His other books include The Responsible CompanySimple Fly Fishing, and Climbing Ice. He was the executive producer of the 2019 investigative documentary Artifishal and the award-winning documentaries DamNation (2014) and Public Trust (2020). Born in Lewiston, Maine, he now resides in Ventura, California.

Timothy (Tim) P. Wilson, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

A photo of Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson has held several roles at Seeds of Peace since its founding in 1993. Prior to serving as Senior Advisor and Director of the Maine Seeds Programs, he was the Director of the Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine and the Seeds of Peace Center for Coexistence in Jerusalem. Before and during the early years of his work with Seeds of Peace, he served as the Director of Multicultural Programs for Pierce Atwood Consulting in Portland. He has been appointed by three Maine governors to several posts, including Chair of the Maine Human Rights Commission. He has been the Associate Headmaster of the Hyde School, Director of Admissions at Maine Central Institute, and a highly successful football coach at the University of Maine. His many awards include the Medal of Honor from the late King Hussein of Jordan, the Gerda Haas Award for Excellence in Human Rights Education and Leadership from the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, and the Peace Corps’ Franklin H. Williams Award. A Maine Sports Hall of Fame inductee, he received the Distinguished American Award by the Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation. He earned a B.S. in Education from Slippery Rock University and ESL certification from the University of Washington.

Beverly S. Worthington and David W. Worthington, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

A photo of Beverly and David Wilson

As a first-generation-to-college graduate and co-founder of the Worthington Scholarship Foundation, Beverly Worthington has focused on implementing impactful scholarship and student success services for college students in Maine for more than a decade. Today, the Worthington Scholarship Foundation provides eligible graduates of high schools in Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo, and Washington counties with grants of up to $16,000 to support their education at select two- and four-year colleges in Maine, including the University of Southern Maine. Prior to launching the Worthington Scholarship Foundation with her husband, David, she was a corporate commercial pilot and owned and operated an aerial application service in Texas for many years. Her roles in agriculture and international trade included serving as a liaison between the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas State Legislature on agricultural issues, serving as a Board member of the Gulf Coast Agribusiness Council, and participating in the Uruguay Round, the eighth round of multilateral, international trade negotiations conducted within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). A graduate of Lee College in Bayton, Texas, Worthington has served on many advisory committees at her alma mater that oversee the college’s Business, Career Pilot, Legal Assistant, and Technology programs.

Prior to co-founding the Worthington Scholarship Foundation, David Worthington enjoyed a long and successful career in the oil industry. After serving Shell Oil Company as Exploration Manager for the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic, he assumed a majority ownership position and leadership of TGS Geophysical, which became the largest provider of modern, non-exclusive seismic data in the Gulf of Mexico to the energy industry. TGS Geophysical later merged with the Norwegian company NOPEC to become TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Co., one of the world’s largest geophysical consulting, contracting services, and marine seismic data companies. He retired from active management in 1996 and relinquished his board responsibilities in 2007. A Worcester, Mass., native, Worthington served three years with the U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps before earning a B.A. in Geology at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio. He then continued his education under a Texaco Fellowship at the University of Utah and Virginia Tech University, receiving an M.S. in Geophysics in 1969. He has served as a Trustee of Marietta College, a Trustee of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation, and a Patient Pal at Texas Children’s Hospital.