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NVU Announces Commencement Guest Speakers

Northern Vermont University has announced the guest speakers for Commencement 2021. Dr. Francois S. Clemmons will address the NVU-Johnson graduating class and Dr. Henry S. Parker will address the NVU-Lyndon graduating class. Though the ceremonies for both campuses will be held virtually this year, they will include time-honored traditions. The commencements will premiere on YouTube on Saturday, May 15 at 11 a.m. (Johnson Campus) and Sunday, May 16 at 11 a.m. (Lyndon Campus). The livestream will take place at

“We are thrilled to welcome these two multitalented individuals to address our graduating students at this culminating moment in their academic careers,” said NVU President Elaine C. Collins. “Both Dr. Clemmons and Dr. Parker have demonstrated commitment to the public good in their communities in exceptional ways, modeling a key value of our university. We are honored that our graduates have the opportunity to hear from two individuals who have attained such diverse successes at a time when our students are set to embark on their own unique journeys.”

Dr. Francois Clemmons, singer, actor, playwright, and university lecturer, is known for his groundbreaking role as Officer Clemmons on the award-winning PBS children’s television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a role he played for 25 years.

Other notable career highlights include a 1973 Grammy Award for a recording of Porgy and Bess; in 1986, he founded and directed the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble; and from 1997 until his retirement in 2013, Dr. Clemmons was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College. Clemmons received a bachelor of music degree from Oberlin College and a master of fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University, and an honorary doctor of arts degree from Middlebury College.

Dr. Henry S. Parker, author, professor, oceanographer, and expeditioner, is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction and an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine. He lectures and publishes on threats to U.S. food and agriculture and on scientific and natural history topics, with a goal of communicating science to non-scientists.

Dr. Parker holds a Ph.D. in biological oceanography and was formerly a research manager and acting director of Homeland Security for the Agricultural Research Service of USDA. A former university professor of marine sciences, Dr. Parker has also been a U.S. Naval officer and deep-sea salvage diver, a seaweed farmer in the southern Philippines, and co-leader of an expedition that discovered and recovered remains of a seventeenth-century Spanish Manila galleon. He has enjoyed working with Northern Vermont University faculty and staff to encourage and support young writers.

A special website for graduates and their family and friends will go live the day of the virtual commencements at At the site, graduates can revisit the ceremonies and download personalized social media graphics.