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Cyndi Lauper and Bess O’Brien to Deliver NVU Commencement Keynote Addresses

Northern Vermont University, which will hold its first commencement ceremonies under the NVU name, has officially announced its keynote speakers for its May 18 (NVU-Johnson) and May 19 (NVU-Lyndon) campus commencement ceremonies.

NVU-Johnson Speaker: Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi LauperGroundbreaking Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning songwriter, performer, and social activist Cyndi Lauper will deliver the commencement address at Northern Vermont University-Johnson on May 18. 

Lauper attended Johnson State College, now NVU-Johnson, in 1973 and 1974. She will receive a Doctor of Letters Honorary Degree (Litt.D) at the commencement ceremony. 

“Simply put, Ms. Lauper is a creative genius who demonstrates the highest level of excellence as a songwriter, musician, entertainer, and activist. She is a leading voice in issues of social justice and has used her art and entertaining ability to broaden understanding of marginalized populations. It will be an honor to give Ms. Lauper an honorary degree,” says NVU President Elaine C. Collins. “Her inspiring spirit will enrich our graduates as they embark to make a meaningful difference in their own communities.” 

Lauper is best known for her classic songs including “Time After Time,” “True Colors” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015, and in 2018 she received the Icon Award from Billboard at its annual Women in Music event. 

Lauper is a longtime advocate for women, the LGBTQ community and people who live with HIV and AIDS. Her charitable organization, True Colors United, works to end homelessness among LGBTQ young people. 

NVU-Lyndon Speaker: Bess O’Brien

Bess O'BrienAward-winning Vermont documentary filmmaker and theater producer Bess O’Brien will deliver the commencement address at 11 a.m. May 19 at Northern Vermont University-Lyndon. 

“Bess O’Brien’s commitment to issues that affect our communities is incredible. Her many films have covered a large number of issues that face our world—addiction, returning home after serving time in prison, growing up in foster care, body image, and more,” said NVU President Elaine C. Collins. “Her words at NVU-Lyndon’s commencement will inspire our graduates as they go out into the world to start their careers and to contribute to their communities.”

Known for her films on social and mental health issues, O’Brien co-founded Barnet-based Kingdom County Productions with her husband, Jay Craven, in 1991. Her latest documentary, “Coming Home,” focuses on people returning to their Vermont communities from prison, highlighting an innovative re-integration program, Circle of Support and Accountability.    

O’Brien’s film “The Hungry Heart,” about Vermont’s prescription drug use crisis, won an outstanding media award from the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin recognized the film as a catalyst for opiate addiction awareness in the state. Other films by O’Brien include “All of Me,” about body image and eating disorders; “Ask Us Who We Are,” about foster care in Vermont; and “Journey into Courage,” about Vermont women who survive domestic violence and sexual abuse.  

About the Ceremonies

NVU-Johnson’s 152nd commencement ceremony, which will be on the campus’s South Lawn, is a ticketed event, with seating under the tent reserved for graduating students, their guests and others participating in the ceremony. Simulcasts of the ceremony will be broadcast on campus and a livestream of the event will be available online. For more information, visit  

NVU-Lyndon’s 107th commencement ceremony will be held under a tent on the campus soccer field. The event is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, and tickets are not required. The ceremony also will be broadcast live for public viewing at NVU’s Alexander Twilight Theatre. Free parking and a shuttle service will be available on campus. For more information about the commencement, visit For more information about O’Brien, visit