Skip Repetitive Navigation Links


For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 2, 2019                                               

Contact: John Taraborelli, 401-497-9350​​

Rhode Island College Announces Commencement 

Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipient

Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges to deliver address at graduation ceremony, philanthropist 

Luis Miranda to receive honorary doctorate degree

Providence, RI – Longtime civil rights icon and author Ruby Bridges will serve as speaker at the 165th commencement ceremony of Rhode Island College on Saturday, May 11 at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

The commencement exercises, which for the first time will award baccalaureate and advanced degrees in a single combined ceremony, will begin at 9 a.m.

Born in Mississippi in 1954 – the same year the Supreme Court ended school segregation with the Brown v. Board of Education decision – Bridges was only six years old when she boldly went into the forefront of the burgeoning civil rights movement. In 1960, she became one of the first black children to integrate the all-white New Orleans school system. Bridges was greeted by a mob and escorted across the school's threshold by federal marshals – a safety precaution that continued for her entire first year at William Frantz Elementary School. Artist Norman Rockwell later immortalized her first day in his painting, "The Problem We All Live With."

After graduating from a desegregated high school, Bridges went on to become a wife, mother and civil rights activist. In the mid-1990s, she reconnected with Barbara Henry, the only teacher at Frantz Elementary who was willing to accept Bridges as a student in her first year, and the pair embarked on a series of speaking engagements. Bridges later wrote two books about her experiences, one of which, "Through My Eyes," earned the National Council for the Social Studies' prestigious Carter G. Woodson Award.

In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded Ruby Bridges the Presidential Citizens Medal. In 2006, the Alameda (CA) Unified School District dedicated Ruby Bridges Elementary School. In 2014, a statue of her was unveiled in the courtyard of Frantz Elementary.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. will receive an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremony. He is founding partner of The MirRam Group, a government affairs, lobbying and political consulting firm in New York City, and founding president of the Hispanic Federation. Miranda has served in three New York City mayoral administrations and is past chair of NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest public health care system in the United States.

A noted advocate for underrepresented communities and patron of the arts, Miranda is board chair of the Latino Victory Fund and the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, and serves on the board of New York City's The Public Theater, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, NYC & Company and the Amber Charter School Foundation in East Harlem. He also chairs the advisory boards to Broadway League's Viva Broadway and the Caribbean and Latin American Studies Department at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Miranda and his wife, Luz Towns-Miranda, have been married for 39 years and have two adult children, Luz Miranda-Crespo and Lin-Manuel Miranda. In 2018, the Miranda family, through its charitable foundation, created the Miranda Family Scholarship at Rhode Island College to support students from underrepresented communities who are pursuing careers in the performing arts.

"Ms. Bridges and Mr. Miranda were chosen to be part of our commencement because they both represent the values of opportunity and inclusion that are bedrocks of our mission here at Rhode Island College," said President Frank D. Sánchez. "In their own ways, they have each been tireless advocates for underrepresented communities and their lives stand as powerful testaments to the potential of education as a tool for inclusion and empowerment."  

About Rhode Island College
Established in 1854, Rhode Island College serves approximately 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students through its five schools: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, the School of Business, the School of Nursing and the School of Social Work. For more information, visit