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Virginia Union University Announces Danny Glover as Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient

May 08, 2019

Danny Glover - Actor, Producer & Humanitarian

Award-winning actor, producer, humanitarian Danny Glover, whose film credits include the blockbuster Lethal Weapon franchise, and Oscar-nominated films The Color Purple and Dreamgirls, will deliver the 120th commencement address at Virginia Union University on May 11, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. on the historic Hovey Field. Glover will receive an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, for his stellar work in the performing arts as well as being an outspoken advocate for human rights.

“Danny Glover is well known for portraying complex characters on stage and screen but he is also universally admired for his work in social justice,” said Dr. Hakim Lucas, President & CEO of Virginia Union University. “I am thrilled our graduates will have the opportunity to hear from such an authoritative speaker as they prepare to make their own impact beyond our campus.”

Glover has been a commanding presence in Hollywood for close to three decades. Along with the box office smash hits and several smaller independent films _ some of which he has produced, Glover has appeared on the small screen, including taking home an NAACP Image Award, a Cable ACE Award, and an Emmy nomination for his performance in the title role of the HBO Movie, Mandela. He has also received Emmy nominations for his work in the acclaimed mini-series Lonesome Dove, and the telefilm Freedom Song.

Glover is largely respected and renowned for his wide-reaching community activism and philanthropic efforts. He places a particular emphasis on advocacy for economic justice and access to health care and education programs in the U.S. and Africa. Internationally, Glover served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program from 1998-2004, focusing on issues of poverty, disease, and economic development in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Currently, Glover serves as UNICEF Ambassador. His philanthropic efforts have won him several honors including the “Pioneer Award” from the National Civil Rights Museum, the prestigious Medaille des Arts et des Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, and was honored with a Tribute at the Deauville International Film Festival.

A  native of San Francisco, and graduate of San Francisco State University, Glover trained at the Black Actors Workshop of the American Conservatory Theatre.

Honorary Degree Recipients

In addition to Glover, two other esteemed individuals also will be awarded honorary degrees:

Barbara R. Grey will receive the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters. Grey is the beloved director of the VUU Museum Art Galleries and a VUU graduate from the Class of 1947, earning a bachelor’s degree in English/Elementary Education. She went on to earn a library certification from Virginia State University and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from New York University. Her professional career spans more than seven decades beginning in 1948 as a teacher of grades 1-7 in a one-room school and included a three-year stint teaching in Europe, and also rising through the ranks of teacher to principal in the Richmond Public School System from 1952-1999. Grey has served on many community boards and organizations including the YWCA, Black History Museum, Children’s Museum, Maggie Walker Museum, and the Richmond Historical Society Education Committee. Grey is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Richmond Links, Inc., and the Commonwealth Society. 

Rev. Dr. Earl F. Miller will receive the honorary degree, Doctor of Divinity. He is well-known, widely traveled, and well respected as a preacher, scholar, teacher, and community leader. He is an unsolicited ambassador for Virginia Union University and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology (STVU), having recruited numerous theology students. He is a “Father in Ministry” to more than 50 ministers, including 14 who were trained at STVU. Some of those students are now faculty members including our beloved University Pastor, Rev. Angelo Chatmon and Dr. Alison Gise-Johnson. Dr. Miller served as Dean of Student Affairs at VUU from 1972-1976 and as Director of Field Education and a Teacher at STVU from 1976-1977. During that time, he also served as Senior Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia, until 1977 when he was called to be Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. After more than a decade, he left Pilgrim to plant a new church which would be named Progressive Baptist Church. During his 25 years as pastor, the church grew to more than 1500 members. Dr. Miller retired in 2017 and was named Pastor Emeritus of Progressive Baptist Church. He installed his son, Rev. Dr. Melvin G. Miller, as the new senior pastor.

Baccalaureate Service

Baccalaureate Service will be held Friday, May 10, at 6:00 p.m. in Coburn Hall. The speaker will be Dr. Derik E. Jones, co-pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of South Richmond. The church has a membership of more than 3,000 and host services at two locations, Richmond and Chesterfield. It also operates a Family Life Center and the Imani Village which provides affordable housing and employment opportunities. Dr. Jones currently sits on the Richmond School Board where he represents the 8th district.

Jones is a graduate with honors from Virginia Union University where he double majored in history and political science. He earned a graduate degree from The Divinity School at Yale University, where his studies concentrated on biblical studies, and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, Massachusetts.

Media Sign-In

Media seeking access to cover the event should contact Kiara McGowan-Powell at kmcgowan-powell@vuu.edu or (804) 257-5856, to reserve a press credential.

About VUU: Virginia Union University is a premier liberal arts urban institution of higher education and center of excellence for the preparation of students and the development of leaders for tomorrow’s world. It was founded in 1865 to give newly emancipated slaves an opportunity for education and advancement. Virginia Union University offers a broad range of educational opportunities that advances liberal arts education, teaching, research, science, technology, continuing education, civic engagement, and international experiences. Visit https://www.vuu.edu/ for more information.