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Wicked Author Maguire '76 and Emmy Winner Cohen '71 to Address Commencement, May 14-15

Albany, N.Y. (May 2, 2011) -- Gregory Maguire, alumnus and author of the award-winning novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, will deliver the undergraduate keynote address at the 2011 Commencement Ceremony at the University at Albany on May 15 at 10 a.m. on the campus Grand Entry Plaza.

Writer, four-time Emmy Award-winner, former New York Times "The Ethicist" columnist, and alumnus Randy Cohen will address the graduate Commencement on May 14, 9 a.m. in the SEFCU Arena.

Both Maguire and Cohen will receive the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters.

An estimated 3,082 students are expected to participate in the 167th Commencement ceremonies, including 2,208 undergraduate and 874 graduate degree applicants (138 doctoral, 159 master's and advanced and graduate certificates).

The undergraduates will receive degrees in 50 different majors, with the largest numbers in (descending order) psychology, business, communication, accounting, English, sociology, political science, history and biology. UAlbany undergraduates hail from 54 foreign countries, including China, Republic of Korea, Afghanistan, Belarus, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, Italy, Israel, Japan, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Togo, and Vietnam. Students also come from 20 states in the U.S.

Randy Cohen '71

Randy Cohen '71

Gregory Maguire

Gregory P. Maguire '76 is the author of several dozen novels for children and a half dozen for adults. His best known book Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, inspired the blockbuster musical Wicked, now in its seventh year on Broadway.

Born and raised in Albany, he is a national figure in children’s literature education. Maguire is a founding board member and co-director of Children’s Literature New England, Inc., a nonprofit that focuses attention on the significance of literature in the lives of children. For 25 years, he has lectured on children, literature, and culture across the U.S. and abroad.

Winner of 35 awards including the Grammy and three Tony awards, and declared "The Best Musical of the Decade" by Entertainment Weekly and "A Cultural Phenomenon" by Variety, Wicked is currently playing in numerous venues internationally. The novel is also the basis of a mini-series adaptation currently in development, produced by Salma Hayek in partnership with ABC. A major motion picture based on the musical is being developed by Universal.

His seven novels for adults have more than eight million copies in print in the United States alone, and have been translated into two dozen languages. Among his books for children are the New York Times bestseller What-The Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy and Leaping Beauty and Other Animal Fairy Tales. He is also the author of the play The Seven Stage a Comeback, which premiered in Boston in 2010.

Maguire has been featured in a New York Times Magazine profile and in People magazine; he has appeared on "Oprah" and performed original work on NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Selected Shorts." He has written book reviews (of work by Maurice Sendak, J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman etc.) for the New York Times Book Review. Most recently he penned "Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation," a critical essay in honor of the great American artist; and "Matchless," illustrated by the author, which retells and expands Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Little Match Girl."

He received his undergraduate degree in English and art from the University at Albany in 1976 and a doctorate in English and American literature from Tufts University in 1990. He lives in Concord, Mass., with his husband, the painter Andy Newman, and their three children.

Graduate Commencement

The graduate commencement will be held at SEFCU Arena on the Uptown Campus on Saturday, May 14, at 9 a.m.

Randy Cohen

As the writer of "The Ethicist," a weekly syndicated column for the New York Times Magazine, author Randy Cohen '71, answered readers' questions on ethics for more than a decade. His book, The Good, the Bad & the Difference: How to Tell Right From Wrong in Everyday Situations, is based on his newspaper column. He is the author of Diary of a Flying Man, a collection of stories and humor pieces.

Cohen's first professional work was writing humor pieces, essays and stories for newspapers and magazines such as the New Yorker, Harper's, The Atlantic and Young Love Comics. For several years, he wrote "The News Quiz," a regular column of topical comedy, for Slate, an online magazine.

Before becoming a journalist, Cohen worked extensively in television. He wrote for "Late Night With David Letterman," for which he shared three Emmy Awards during the mid 1980s. He won a fourth Emmy for his work on "TV Nation" and also wrote for the show "Ed." He was the original head writer on the "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," for which he also co-wrote the theme music. Cohen is a regular contributor to "Weekend All Things Considered" on National Public Radio, and is currently developing his own show for public radio, entitled "A Question of Ethics."

He received his degree in music from the University at Albany in 1971.

In recognition of extraordinary achievements, the State University of New York, through the University at Albany, will bestow upon him an honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters.

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Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 18,000 students. An internationally recognized research university with 58 undergraduate majors and 128 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit http://www.albany.edu/. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.shtml.