Commencement Speakers Graff and Richards to Receive Honorary Degrees

Champlain will award honorary doctorates to commencement speakers Aly Richards, chief executive officer of Let’s Grow Kids, and nationally renowned journalist and author Garrett Graff. The ceremonies will also feature student speakers Izzy Bell and Paula Realbuto.

Commencement speakers and graduates will return to the stage and mortarboards will fly once more as Champlain College holds in-person commencement ceremonies for its traditional undergraduate and Champlain College Online undergraduate and graduate students on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

The events will take place at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction at 10:00 AM for traditional undergraduate students and 3:00 PM for students receiving Champlain College Online undergraduate and master’s degrees. The return to in-person events comes after virtual ceremonies in 2020 and an in-person/virtual hybrid event in 2021. Interim President Dave Finney is expected to confer 334 bachelor’s degrees during the traditional undergraduate ceremony, and 133 master’s degrees, 126 bachelor’s degrees, and 19 associate degrees during the afternoon ceremony for Champlain College Online graduates. Hilary Delisle, a Champlain College staff member and alumna, will sing the national anthem.

“We are tremendously excited to celebrate this milestone face-to-face with our students and their families,” Interim President Finney said. “This is the culmination of the hard work of our students, and of all that our Champlain community does to prepare and support our graduates for successful careers and lives.” Finney continued: “We are also pleased to recognize Garrett Graff and Aly Richards for their significant contributions to our broader community, and know their words will inspire our students as they enter a complex world and seek to make their mark as Champlain College graduates.”

commencement speaker Aly Richards stands in front of a colorful red wall displaying children's artwork
Aly Richards, CEO of Let’s Grow Kids, will serve as the commencement speaker for the 10 AM ceremony.

Aly Richards, chief executive officer of Let’s Grow Kids, will speak to the traditional undergraduate community and will receive a Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa. Before taking the lead of the Vermont nonprofit, whose mission is to ensure that by 2025 all children in Vermont can access and afford high-quality child care, Richards served as deputy chief of staff for former Gov. Peter Shumlin. She also worked for former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and was named a 2013 Toll Fellow and 2014 Vermont Champion for Education. Richards has said the power of education, in its many forms, has driven her to carve her own path to success. This opportunity to speak to students as they turn the page to their next chapter serves as a full-circle moment for her.  

Commencement speaker Garrett Graff smiles wide for his headshot
Journalist Garrett Graff will speak to Champlain College Online undergraduate and Master’s students at the 3 PM ceremony.

Students receiving Champlain College Online undergraduate and master’s degrees will hear from Garrett Graff, who will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. The Vermont native is a prolific journalist, historian, commentator, producer, and author. His most recent book, Watergate: A New History, is a New York Times bestseller, and his previous book, The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11, was a national bestseller and named the 2020 Audiobook of the Year. Graff is also the founding director of the Aspen Institute’s cybersecurity and technology program, where he helped start the prestigious Aspen Cybersecurity Group, and has a long history as a new media pioneer. Graff brings a unique expertise and perspective during an unprecedented time for Champlain’s graduates, who have during their college career experienced a confluence of complex national and global events. 

In addition to the 2022 Honorary Degree recipients, student speakers will address graduates in each of the two ceremonies. Izzy Bell, representing traditional undergraduate students, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing and is originally from Hamilton, VA. Paula Realbuto, who will represent Champlain College Online, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Hailing from Troy, NY, she received an Associate in Science in Paralegal Studies in 1988, and will be pursuing her master’s degree this fall.

For more information about Champlain College’s 2022 Commencement speakers and ceremonies, visit commencement.champlain.edu. In addition to the in-person ceremony, the College will provide an online broadcast for both ceremonies at that address. Read more about Aly Richards here and Garrett Graff here.

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