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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Commencement 2014: Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco to speak at URI's Undergraduate Commencement ceremony, May 18, 2014

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

KINGSTON, R. I. -- March 18, 2014 -- Nearly 20,000 students and their guests will gather for the University of Rhode Island's 128th Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on May 18, 2014, and will hear from one person whose transformative words were a part of the ceremony to inaugurate President Barack Obama, the Poet Richard Blanco.

Blanco, the fifth inaugural poet in this nation’s history, has been invited as the undergraduate commencement speaker to share his words and join the University in celebrating the achievements of the Class of 2014.

In making the announcement URI President David M. Dooley said: "We are delighted that Richard Blanco will join us and speak to graduating seniors and the entire community. He is known worldwide for inspiring a new way to think and feel about poetry -- and making it a part of everyday life.

"We believe that Blanco's presence at this important occasion will help to 'inaugurate' the beginning of a new phase of life for our graduating students."

In recognition of Blanco's unique contributions to this state and to the nation, he will be awarded an honorary doctor of letters.

Blanco is one of today's most beloved and influential poets and storytellers. He is the first Latino, first openly gay man, first immigrant and youngest person bestowed the honor of reading at an American president’s inauguration. His inaugural poem, One Today, pays homage to the American experience. He now joins the literary ranks of Robert Frost and Maya Angelou with the inaugural poem honor.

The son of Cuban exiles, Blanco was raised in Miami, Florida. He earned a B.S. in civil engineering and a M.F.A. in creative writing from Florida International University. Blanco has been a practicing engineer, writer and poet since 1991 and he has traveled extensively in his adult life, living and working throughout Europe and South America. He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, Writer’s Center and Central Connecticut State University and was named a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.

An award-winning author of several books, including For All of Us, One Today (2013), Looking for The Gulf Motel (2012), and City of a Hundred Fires (1998), Blanco has also published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Best American Prose Poems and Ploughshares.

At URI, Blanco has already built a following through his participation in the annual Ocean State Summer Writing Conference. During the summer of 2012, he led a series of intensive, three-day poetry workshops at the University’s Ocean State Summer Writing Conference. He joined the URI conference again in 2013, after delivering the presidential poem.



About URI Commencement Ceremonies, May 17-18, 2014


Graduate Commencement: On Saturday, May 17, about 800 students will be awarded the master's and doctoral degrees during a ceremony at the Thomas M. Ryan Center. The ceremony is streamed live for those who may be unable to attend.
Undergraduate Commencement: On Sunday, May 18, URI's undergraduate commencement is one of the biggest events held in the State of Rhode Island. This year, more than 3,300 undergraduates are expected to receive their degrees. The day includes two distinct ceremonies: The University-wide Ceremony on the Quadrangle and the individual college diploma ceremonies.

  • The University-wide ceremony begins at 12:20 p.m. and includes the procession in full academic regalia, greetings by elected and academic officials, presentation of honorary degrees, the main commencement speaker (Richard Blanco), the student speaker and all the pomp and circumstance. This ceremony is streamed live for those who may be unable to attend or who may choose to watch from an indoor location on the Kingston Campus.
    Watch it live online at URI Live!

  • Either before, or just after the University-wide ceremony, URI's eight academic colleges will hold their ceremonies at which each student is called to the stage to shake hands with their dean, photographed and presented with an official diploma cover.

  • Complimentary tickets are required for guests at each of these locations. These college ceremonies are not streamed or recorded for viewing.