2023 Honorary Degree Recipients & Commencement Speakers


2023 Honorary Degree Recipients and Commencement Speakers

On Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, we look forward to celebrating the 2023 graduating class for completing their degrees in the College of Liberal Arts, Drew Theological School, and the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies.

Our 155th Drew University Commencement ceremonies will feature the conferral of honorary degrees awarded by Drew’s Board of Trustees to Rev. Dr. Daisy L. Machado, Camille A. Brown, and Harold Gary.

Rev. Dr. Daisy L. Machado will address the Drew Theological School, while Camille A. Brown will serve as the Commencement speaker for the College of Liberal Arts.

In addition, the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies will hear from their own esteemed faculty member Dr. Liana Piehler G’01.

2023 Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

Rev. Dr. Daisy L. Machado

Historian, Author, and Renowned Minister to the Latinx Community  

To serve as Commencement speaker and awardee of a Doctor of Divinity honorary degree at the Drew Theological School Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 12.

The Rev. Dr. Daisy L. Machado is a native of Cuba who came to the U.S. with her parents to New York City when she was three years old. She completed a BA from Brooklyn College, a Masters in Social Work from Hunter School of Social Work, a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the first Latina ordained in the NE Region (1981), Rev. Dr. Machado has served Latinx congregations in Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York City as well as Gary, Indiana. She also helped to establish two new Latinx congregations, one in Houston and one in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Dr. Machado, an historian of the History of Christianity with a focus on the modern period in the U.S. and the Americas, has been teaching for over twenty-five years. From 2007-2022, she was Professor of the History of Christianity at Union Theological Seminary in New York City where in May 2022 she became Professor Emerita. She has also served as academic dean of Lexington Theological Seminary, Lexington, Kentucky, and Union Theological Seminary in New York City, the first Latina to serve as dean in both institutions. She has also provided leadership to major Latinx organizations of theological education serving as the founding director of the Hispanic Theological Initiative created in 1996 to expand the presence and work of Latinx scholars in the academy by mentoring and supporting Latinx doctoral students. And currently she is the Executive Director of the Hispanic Summer Program, the first Latina to hold this position, which is now in its 34th year of service. The HSP provides programs of theological education for Latinx seminarians from across the U.S. Her creative leadership at the Hispanic Summer Program has made it possible for the organization to receive a $1.8 million grant from the Lilly Endowment in 2020 which has expanded the programming the HSP currently offers.

Dr. Machado is the author of numerous book chapters and has been invited to speak at academic conferences throughout the U.S. and in Germany. Most recently, she is coeditor of an anthology on borderland religion that collects the work of scholars from South Africa, Norway, Austria, Denmark, and the U.S. titled Borderland Religion: Ambiguous practices of difference, hope and beyond (Routledge Press, 2019). She has also written “History and Latino Identity: Mapping A Past That Leads to Our Future” in the anthology Companion to Latina/o Theology, edited by Orlando Espín (2nd edition, forthcoming). Dr. Machado has also provided leadership for various groups at the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion and in 2020 received a grant to work with four other Latinx colleagues on series of workshops that focused on teaching in seminaries from a Latinx perspective called “Teaching Borderlands”. These workshops were offered to faculty at three ATS seminaries in various cities. A final public event for this grant will be hosted in April 2023 by Austin Theological Seminary. 

In addition to her teaching, research and writing, Dr. Machado was the first Latina to serve as one of the weekly chaplains at the Chautauqua Institution (2008) where she was invited to return as guest lecturer in Religion (2015).  Most recently (2022), Dr. Machado was invited to give the American Academy of Religion’s American Lectureship in the History of Religion on the topic of “Borderlands”. In the fall 2022 she spoke at Loyola Marymount University, the University of Southern California, UC Riverside, and gave the final lecture at the annual AAR Meeting in November 2022.

As a borderlands dweller in the U.S. Dr. Machado has been living with, researching, and writing about issues that are core to the Latinx community. Dr. Machado’s teaching and writing has provided an opportunity for her students and readers to think about life in the U.S. borderlands and the role of religion in its varied and interesting manifestations—from Santa Muerte to Pentecostalism to Prosperity Gospel.

Dr. Liana Piehler G’01

Drew Affiliate Professor of English and Arts & Letters Program Faculty Member

To serve as Commencement speaker at the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 12.

Dr. Liana Piehler (PhD, English Literature, Drew University, G’01; BA, Mount Holyoke College, ’93), an Affiliate Professor in the Arts and Letters program of the CSGS, teaches courses that blend literature and the visual arts. She is the author of “Spatial Dynamics and Female Development in Victorian Art and Novels: Creating a Woman’s Space”, and her scholarship frequently seeks these intersections.

Liana regularly teaches the Joy of Scholarly Writing to students in both the Arts & Letters and Medical Health Humanities programs, guiding and mentoring them on the dissertation journey both in this course and through committee direction.

In addition to her own scholarly and creative writing, Liana Piehler is a visual artist specializing in watercolor, printmaking, collage, book arts, and other 2-and 3-D mediums. She is a frequent art and literature instructor and lecturer at the Morris Community School and an exhibiting member of the Provincetown Art Association in MA. Along with her work in the A&L program, she serves as a faculty writing consultant at the UWC for graduate students and a writing instructor in Drew’s Theological School.

In 2014, she was awarded the Thomas H. Kean Scholar/Mentor of the Year Award, and in 2019/20, she received the Patrice M. and John F. Kelly Faculty Fellowship in Arts and Letters.

Camille A. Brown

Tony Award Nominated Director and Choreographer

To serve as Commencement speaker and awardee of a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree at the College of Liberal Arts Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13.

Camille A. Brown is a prolific Black choreographer whose work taps into both ancestral and contemporary stories to capture a range of deeply personal experiences and cultural narratives of African American identity.

As artistic director of Camille A. Brown & Dancers, she strives to instill curiosity and reflection in diverse audiences through her emotionally raw and thought-provoking work. Her trilogy on race culture and identity has won accolades: “Mr. TOL E. RAncE” (2012) was honored with a Bessie Award; “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play” (2015) was Bessie-nominated; and “ink” (2017) premiered at The Kennedy Center to critical acclaim.

Most recently, Brown made her Broadway directorial debut for the Broadway revival of “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” making her the first Black woman to direct and choreograph a Broadway show since Katherine Dunham in 1955. The production received seven Tony Award nominations including Best Direction of a Play and Best Choreography. The New York Times proclaimed the production “triumphant.”

Other Broadway credits include: Choir Boy (Tony and Drama Desk nominations for Best Choreography); Tony award winning Once on This Island (Drama Desk, Outer Critics, and Lortel nominations); A Streetcar Named Desire. Off-Broadway: Toni Stone (Lortel and Audelco nominations), Much Ado About Nothing (Audelco), This Ain’t No Disco, Bella: An American Tale (Audelco), and Fortress of Solitude (Lortel nomination). At NY City Center Encores!: Cabin in The Sky and Tick Tick…Boom!

At The Metropolitan Opera, she became the first Black artist to direct a mainstage production, sharing directorial duties with James Robinson on “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” (2021), which she also choreographed (Bessie Nomination for Outstanding Choreographer). She had choreographed “Porgy & Bess” two years earlier.

Brown’s film and TV work includes Harlem (2022) (Amazon Prime), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix); Emmy award winning Jesus Christ Superstar Live (NBC); New Year’s Eve in Rockefeller Center (NBC), Google Arts & Culture (ink).

Brown has been featured on the cover of Dance Magazine (2018) and Dance Teacher magazine (2016), on PBS’ “Articulate,” a nationally syndicated documentary series on the art, and in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Brown has received numerous awards including ISPA’s 2021 Distinguished Artist, 2020 Dance Magazine Award, Guggenheim, Doris Duke Artist, Dance Magazine, United States Artists, Audelco, Princess Grace Statue Award, Jacob’s Pillow Award, and New York City Center, USA Jay Franke & David Herro Fellow, TED fellow, Kennedy Center’s Next 50. Other awards include a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship 2017 and the Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Choreography in 2020.

A 2020 Emerson Collective Fellow, Brown is building a “Social Dance for Social Change” virtual school to provide opportunities for dance education, cultural engagement, and mentorship during the pandemic and beyond.

A graduate of the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, Brown received a B.F.A. in 2001 from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she studied contemporary dance. She began her professional career as a dancer with Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, a dance company, from 2001-2007. Brown is the choreographer for Terence Blanchard’s first opera, Champion, this season at The Metropolitan Opera (2023), and Soul Train the Musical, directed by Kamilah Forbes and written by Dominique Morrisseau (American Conservatory Theater- Summer, 2023). 

Harold Gary

WWII Veteran and Former Drew Student

To serve as awardee of a Bachelor of Arts honorary degree at the College of Liberal Arts Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13, more than 80 years after starting his collegiate career at Drew.

Drew will also bestow an honorary bachelor’s degree at this year’s College of Liberal Arts ceremony. Harold Gary, who will turn 102 shortly after Commencement, attended Drew for one year before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in October 1942. He served for the duration of World War II as an aviation mechanic on anti-submarine patrols over the Atlantic coast.

After an honorable discharge in November 1945, he returned to his family farm and did not resume his studies at Drew, though he has expressed his wish to have completed his degree.

He has published two books, one of which is a collection of short stories about his life, including a missive about his year at Drew.

Student Commencement Speakers

Three students, one from each school, will address their peers and guests at their respective ceremony:

Adrian Mendoza | Drew Theological School
Claudia Savickas | Caspersen School of Graduate Studies
Harrison Neal | College of Liberal Arts