Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipient

December 2021 Commencement Speakers will be announced soon! 


Spring 2021 Commencement Speakers

The five speakers for the spring 2021 commencment ceremonies represent leadership in the arts, education, health and hospitality fields.

Helen Turner Hill, CEO of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, will be the featured speaker for the Commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 6, at the College of Charleston Patriots Point Soccer Stadium.

Under Hill’s leadership, Explore Charleston has developed industry-leading programs that have assisted the Charleston area in becoming one of the most acclaimed destinations in the country. Accolades include a current ten-year run as Best City in the United States as voted by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler and eight consecutive years being named Top U.S. City by Travel + Leisure. The travel and hospitality industry grew to employ 40,000 local residents and generate a $9.7 billion annual economic impact for the Charleston region pre-pandemic.  

In 2019, Hill was elected to the Charleston County Aviation Authority and became its first female board chair. Her efforts in air service development over the last decade were instrumental in expanding Charleston International Airport’s route map, including the recruitment of Southwest, Jet Blue, Alaska, Allegiant, Frontier and British Airways. 

Hill serves on numerous regional and national boards, including the US Travel Association, Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, the Gaillard Management Corporation and multiple statewide tourism organizations.  

For her record as a civic and community leader, commitment to the tourism industry and contributions to South Carolina’s economic development, Hill was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor. 

Hill is a faithful alumna of Ashley Hall School and Clemson University. She is married to Charlestonian Burrow Hill, a retired contractor, and has three sons, Charlie, Martin and Turner. 

Andrew Lewis, Ph.D., Retired Associate Dean of the School of Education, Heath, and Human Performance (EHHP) and director for the Center for Partnerships to Improve Education at the College, will be the featured Commencement speaker for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 7, in the Cistern Yard.

Lewis, retired in 2017 after forty years of service to the College of Charleston. Lewis’ educational degrees include a Bachelor of Science from Albany State University, Albany, Georgia, a Master of Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a Doctor of Philosophy from The Ohio State University, Columbus.  

Lewis has taught and coached at all levels; elementary, high school and college. His primary area of interest is sport pedagogy, and he feels that fostering the growth of young professionals is one of his most important contributions to the profession. 

During his tenure at the College of Charleston, Lewis served in the following administrator positions: department chair for the Department of Health and Human Performance for eleven years (first African American to chair an academic department); interim assistant dean for Undergraduate Studies; associate dean for the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance; and director of Professional Development in Education.  

Lewis is married to Josephine McCloud Lewis of Winter Haven, Florida. They have three children: Andrew Jr. (U.S. Army Officer – major, previously detailed at the Pentagon), Adrian (a master teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina) and Alexis (a physician at the Veterans Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina).   

Valerie B. Morris, Dean Emeritus of the College’s School of the Arts, will be the featured Commencement speaker for the School of the Arts and School of Education, Health, and Human Performance at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, in the Cistern Yard.

Morris served as dean of the College of Charleston’s School of the Arts from the fall of 1998 until she retired in 2020. As dean, she was the chief administrative officer of one of the College’s six undergraduate schools. Morris oversaw the Departments of Art and Achitectural History, Music, Studio Art, and Theatre and Dance, plus programs in arts management and historic preservation and community planning. She was responsible for the production of approximately 200 events per year and provided leadership in cultural education, programming and scholarship for the school and community.  

Prior to joining the College, Morris was chair of the Department of Performing Arts at American University in Washington, D.C., where she was the founding director of that institution’s arts management program. Morris received her M.A. in speech (theatre administration emphasis) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and her B.A. in speech arts from American University. Her publications include The Future of the Arts: Public Policy and Arts Research, edited with David B. Pankratz; The Arts in a New Millennium: Research and the Arts Sector, also edited with Pankratz; as well as numerous articles in professional journals. Morris was the executive editor of the Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society from 1982 to 1988 and 1990 to 2009.  

As an organizer, session chair, panelist or presenter, Morris has participated in national and international conferences related to the arts and arts management. She has served as an American cultural specialist for the United States Information Agency Arts America Program in Santiago, Chile; Kiev, Ukraine; and Montevideo, Uruguay.  

Morris is involved in several national, state-wide and local organizations. She is a former board member of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans and the Rotary Club of Charleston, and she is a mentor for the Association of Theatre in Higher Education’s Leadership Institute.  

Morris is the treasurer at Palmetto State Arts Education, vice chair of the Charleston Concert Association and a member of the steering committee for South Carolina’s Arts in Basic Curriculum program. She serves on the board of the South Carolina Arts Alliance and the Arts Schools Network and as the secretary-elect of the Charleston Stage Board. She co-chairs the International Sister Cities Organization cultural committee. 

Andrew M. SobiesuoAssociate Provost Emeritus and Professor Emeritus, will be the featured Commencement speaker for the the Graduate School; School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs; and School of Sciences and Mathematics at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 7, in the Cistern Yard.

Sobiesuo provided vision and leadership in the development, implementation and management of all international programs and services in compliance with college, state and federal regulations. He retired in 2020 after thirty years of service at the College. 

Sobiesuo’s academic training spans several continents. He received his B.A. (Honors) from the University of Ghana; Diploma in Spanish language and culture and further studies in Hispanic philology at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid; and Ph.D. in romance languages and literatures from The Ohio State University. 

A tenured Professor of Hispanic Studies at the College of Charleston, Sobiesuo previously taught at Ohio Wesleyan University and The Ohio State University.  At the College of Charleston, he taught several courses on Spanish language, literature and culture, and was chair of the Department of Hispanic Studies. He was elected multiple times to the Faculty Senate. He also served on the President Commission on Diversity, Access, Equity and Inclusion along with many faculty committees including the Tenure, Promotion and Third Year Review, Research and Development, Faculty Hearing, and Advisory Committee to the President. Sobiesuo also served as invited external reviewer on faculty tenure and promotion evaluations at various universities.   

Sobiesuo was nominated to the Arcadia University College of Global Studies National Advisory Board, is a founding member of Foundation for Rural Education, Empowerment Development (FREED) and served on the Academic Consortium Board of Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE).  In 2013, he was awarded a Fulbright Grant to the UK and received a second Fulbright Grant to Germany in 2017. 

Sobiesuo’s research focuses on the Afro-Spanish dimensions of the literature of Spain, Afro-Hispanic and Diasporan literatures, Spanish women writers, international education and diversity in education abroad. He is the author of several peer-reviewed articles in academic journals and chapters in edited volumes, has presented academic papers at numerous professional conferences and served on several editorial boards. 

Nigel Redden, general director of Spoleto Festival USA, will be the featured Commencement speaker for the School of Business at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, in the Cistern Yard.

Redden began his career with Spoleto while still in college as a studente assistente at the Festival of Two Worlds in Italy and rejoined Spoleto Festival USA in October 1995 after previously serving as the Festival's general manager from 1986 to 1991. As general director, Redden has ensured the economic security of the Festival, spearheading an endowment campaign and carrying the Festival through many difficult times, most recently the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At Spoleto Festival USA, Redden has championed emerging artists, commissioned new operas and overseen significant art exhibitions. Redden has also been instrumental in the restoration of both the Dock Street Theatre and Festival Hall (formerly Memminger Auditorium). 

Beyond his service to the Festival and the City of Charleston, Redden was director of the Lincoln Center Festival from 1998 to 2017. He also served as executive director of the Santa Fe Opera (1991- 1995), artistic consultant to Philadelphia's American Music Theater Festival (1992 -1994) and consultant to the chairperson of the New York International Festival of the Arts (1991- 1992). Redden was director of the National Endowment for the Arts' Dance Program from 1981 to 1986 and has served on various National Endowment for the Arts panels over the years. He is president of the Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation. In 2001 Redden was awarded the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters and was promoted to Commandeur in 2019. In 2013, he was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College of Charleston. 

The son of an American diplomat, Redden was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. He graduated from Yale University in 1972 with a degree in art history. Redden is married to Arlene Shuler, president & CEO of New York City Center, with whom he shares two adult children. 


» Want to nominate a future commencement speaker? Or view the list of previous honorary degree receipients? Visit the Committee on Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients webpage.