MMC proudly granted American director and producer Stanley Nelson an honorary degree. We were also delighted to recognize the accomplishments of the Class of 2017’s Valedictorians, Jaime Bartolett and Hiu Ching (Penny) Pun, and the student speaker for Commencement, Anika Ferdoash.
Honorary Degree Recipient
Stanley Nelson is one of the foremost chroniclers of the African American experience working in nonfiction film today. His films, many of which have aired on PBS, combine compelling narratives with rich and deeply researched historical detail, shining new light on both familiar and under-explored aspects of the American past. Nelson, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, has received numerous honors over the course of his career, including five Primetime Emmy Awards and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Emmys, the Peabodys, and IDA. In 2013, Nelson received the National Medal in the Humanities from President Barack Obama. His latest film, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities, examines the impact HBCUs have had on American history, culture, and national identity. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017, and will air nationally on the acclaimed PBS series, Independent Lens in early 2018.
In 2000, Mr. Nelson, along with his wife, Marcia A. Smith, founded Firelight Media, a nonprofit production company dedicated to using historical film to advance contemporary social justice causes, and to mentoring, inspiring and training a new generation of diverse filmmakers committed to advancing underrepresented stories.
Jaime Bartolett, Valedictorian
Jaime has pursued a major in Acting and a minor in Business at MMC. Her immediate goal following graduation is to travel and see as much of the world as possible. She will be going to Greece with the theatre department in June and will be backpacking through Europe in September. Aside from that, she will be living in New York and auditioning as much as possible. Jaime can’t wait to see what this next chapter after graduation brings, and she reminds her fellow classmates to always be true to themselves. She says, “Don’t waste your time worrying about what others think of you. If you are sure of who you and what is important to you, everything else will fall into place. And get as much sleep as possible!”
Hiu Ching (Penny) Pun, Valedictorian
Major: English and World Literature
Minor: Theatre Arts Writing
Penny is an international student from Hong Kong who has completed her degree in English and World Literature in just three years. She recently produced an off-Broadway play called Blue, which was included in Pan Asia Rep’s NuWORKS 2017 as part of their six-performance run at The Studio Theatre on 42nd Street. This coming summer, Penny will be the Literary Intern at Williamstown Theatre Festival under the Rosemary Kennedy Initiative.
Student Commencement Speaker
Major: Finance, International Business
Minor: Economics, Accounting
Anika was selected from among 13 students who auditioned for the honor of being the Student Speaker at Commencement. In the fall of 2017, she will be working as a Benefits Consultant for Aflac in Boston. She hopes to return to New York the following year to continue developing initiatives geared towards promoting civic leadership opportunities for youth. As someone whose passions germinated through support programs like HEOP, she hopes to introduce students to similar services and aspires to create her own platform to serve Muslim American youth. She advises fellow classmates, “The one thing you will never get back is your time. Utilize every minute you have doing what you love and fill the gaps in your schedule productively. Assessing the purpose of each activity you partake in will help you determine what you need to prioritize for your greater goal. While you keep yourself busy, do not forget to take breaks. Balance is key when it comes to efficiency.”