Institutional News

Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Jericho Brown to Deliver 2022 Commencement Address

Pulitzer Prize winning poet Jericho Brown will be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2022. The faculty speaker will be Elena Demyanenko, faculty member in dance. The senior student speaker will be Sofia Pacheco Pardo '22.

Commons at dusk

Jericho Brown will address the 87th graduating class at the conferring of degrees on Saturday, May 28, at 10:00 AM. The student speaker will address the class at a Senior dinner on Friday, May 27 at 7:15 pm, and the faculty speaker will address the community at both events. 

Jericho Brown has had a long and meaningful relationship with the college. In February 2020, he delivered the 49th Bennington Writing Seminars Commencement address. Earlier, he participated in a conversation with faculty member Mark Wunderlich, director of the Bennington Writing Seminars Bennington, as part of the MFA residency program. He also took part in Poetry at Bennington, a series of brief multi-day residencies by prominent contemporary poets, in 2019 and 2013.

Jericho Brown is author of The Tradition (Copper Canyon 2019), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he is the winner of the Whiting Award. Brown’s first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. 

“Students today are confronting a world that is horrifically challenging, from the pandemic to racial and economic divides and the devastating impact of climate change. And yet, they confront the world with a sense of hope and commitment that is inspiring for so many of us. I am honored to join the graduating class and their families, along with the faculty and staff of Bennington College, to acknowledge this moment of change and to offer some words of encouragement as students head out to explore further this complicated world,” said Jericho Brown. “Bennington graduates are uniquely talented thinkers, dreamers, and doers, who leave ready to make their mark on the world. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to impart words that will hopefully inspire and empower these young leaders as they set out to build a better future.”

“Over the course of his acclaimed career as an author and poet Jericho has artfully expressed a collection of masterful lyrics that combine delicacy with historical urgency, in a tone that is uniquely fitting for this year’s commencement address,” said Bennington College President Laura Walker. “Jericho’s words touch the very heart of our current moment as he uses his talents to elevate his readers and those around him, something that has long-been at the core of a Bennington education.”

This year’s faculty speaker will be Elena Demyanenko, who has been a faculty member in Dance since 2014. Demyanenko is a Russian-American dance artist and graduate of the Academy of Theatrical Arts (Moscow). She has been performing, teaching, and choreographing in New York City since 2001. She was a member of Trisha Brown and Stephen Petronio Dance Companies, which premiered original choreography at Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York Live Arts, and other venues. Her long list of performance credits includes Martha Clarke’s Garden of Earthly Delights, Continuous Replay with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and a lengthy engagement as guest artist with Riverdance.

Demyanenko is the recipient of New York Live Arts, Baryshnikov Art Center, and EMPAC Dance Movies commissions and a Jerome Robbins Fellowship Demyanenko was a visiting faculty member for Fall 2013 and then joined the Bennington faculty in Fall 2014.

The student speaker will be Sofia Pacheco Pardo ’22, whose studies have focused on political science and Latin American studies, in particular the impact of US interventionism in Central America and its influence on migration. In her work outside the classroom, Sofia was one of the founding members of the International Student Task Force, which partnered with College leadership and staff across departments to ensure international students have the necessary tools to be successful at Bennington.