National Geographic Photojournalists Brian Skerry ’84 to Speak at Virtual Commencement 2021

March 2, 2021
By: Guest Contributor

The ongoing pandemic will again necessitate a virtual Commencement ceremony this year, but graduates will also have an opportunity to walk across a stage set up on campus—during scheduled appointment windows—in front of their family and friends. The virtual undergraduate ceremony will be released at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, and will feature award-winning National Geographic photojournalist and alumnus Brian Skerry ’84, who specializes in capturing marine wildlife and underwater environments. In addition to giving the Commencement address, Skerry will be awarded an honorary degree.

Graduating students and their guests will be given specific times to come to campus over a three-day period, from May 13 to 15, for a Campus Commencement Experience. These drive-in events include a number of stops with opportunities to be photographed by professional photographer while walking across a commencement stage, receive WSU-themed graduation gifts, and take photos with family members at several themed selfie-stations. For students unable to participate by vehicle, an alternative will be provided.

While waiting for their turns to walk across the stage, graduates can watch candid senior slideshows on large video screens [submit your photos here by March 15] and receive socially distant well-wishes from faculty and staff. To provide family members with the opportunity to watch from home, students’ walks across the stage will be webcast.

“We seek to honor our 2021 graduates in the most meaningful way possible, given planning lead times and current coronavirus-related restrictions, while respecting the students’ desire to keep the date of May 15 as their graduation day,” wrote President Barry Maloney to graduating students in a letter announcing the format. “I hope all graduating students will be able to participate in the live aspect of our event and that I will be able to pass on my congratulations for the remarkable achievement of staying on a path to graduation in the face of a global pandemic.”

More information can be found here:

Commencement speaker Brian Skerry has worked for National Geographic Magazine since 1998, covering a wide range of subjects and stories. In 2014 he was one of five photographers named as a National Geographic Photography Fellow. In 2015 he was named a Nikon Ambassador and in June 2017 he was awarded the title of Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year.

His work will also be featured in an upcoming Disney+ original series, “Secrets of the Whales,” directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker and conservationist James Cameron. The four-part Earth Day special, premiering on April 22, “plunges viewers deep within the epicenter of whale culture to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales,” according to an announcement by National Geographic Partners, a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society.

In addition to National Geographic Magazine, Skerry’s work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, BBC Wildlife, Paris Match, GEO, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal,

Smithsonian, Esquire, Audubon, and Men’s Journal. He is the author of 10 books including the acclaimed monograph Ocean Soul.

Skerry has won many awards, including the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year 11 times. He is the Explorer-In-Residence and a trustee at the New England Aquarium, a founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, director of The New England Ocean Odyssey for The Conservation Law Foundation and a Fellow National of The Explorers Club. He also serves as a Marine Fellow with Conservation International, serves on the World Wildlife Fund’s National Council and the WWF’s Marine Leadership Council and on the Board of Directors of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

Graduate Commencement

The 2021 Graduate Commencement ceremony will also take place virtually at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 14. Graduate students can participate in the Campus Commencement Experience on Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15. Additional information, including how to participate, expectations for students and audience members, arrival times, and more will be sent to all students in the coming weeks.

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