From the President

Commencement Speakers

The following message was sent to Faculty, Students, and Staff on May 10, 2021.

Dear Bennington community,

We are pleased to announce that the 2021 Commencement Speaker this year will be Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, a $14 billion international social justice philanthropy. As a leading voice on the need to address inequality, he is a member of Governor Cuomo’s Reimagining New York Commission and co-chair of NYC Census 2020. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. Under his leadership, the Ford Foundation became the first non-profit in US history to issue a $1 billion designated social bond in US capital markets for proceeds to strengthen and stabilize non-profit organizations in the wake of COVID-19.

The 2021 Senior Speaker will be Soumya Rachel Shailendra ‘21. Soumya, who studied Drama and Literature during her time at Bennington, has not only focused on social movements and politics while in the classroom, but also helped create inclusive communities outside of the classroom. She was a founding student of the Consortium of Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education, and she encouraged meaningful conversations by starting an interfaith club for her peers. Soumya’s passion and fierce dedication to equity and freedom—particularly in today’s challenging climate—will continue to shape the College and community for years to come.

Music faculty member Michael Wimberly will be this year’s faculty speaker at Commencement. He will address Bennington’s class of 2021 during the Conferring of Degrees on Saturday, May 29, at 10:00 am. Wimberly is a celebrated and prolific composer/sound designer, and percussionist who has scored films such as As An Act of Protest and Atlantic City Lights for HBO. Wimberly has performed with funk legends Parliament Funkadelic, Brit songstress Joss Stone, and Steve Coleman's 5 Elements. He received his MA in Percussion from the Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY, and his BA in Percussion from Baldwin Wallace University/Conservatory in Berea, Ohio. Music of the African Diaspora and improvisation has become key components of Wimberly’s musical excavations and explorations. He released his latest album, “Afrofuturism,” on the Temple Mountain Record (TMR) in 2021.

We very much look forward to hearing Darren Walker's, Soumya's, and Michael’s reflections at Commencement, and to celebrating the achievements of the class of 2021.

Laura Walker
President