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Archives Lists: Commencement Speakers

Archives lists

CIA Commencement Speakers

(Last updated May 2023)

This list is organized by decade and was compiled from the Archives of the Cleveland Institute of Art’s collection of commencement programs, which is not a complete set. Additionally, documentation was provided by articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer; this information is noted in brackets. In the early years, commencement information was incorporated into documents entitled “Closing Exercises” and not issued as a separate publication. If the location of the ceremony was printed on the document, it is listed below. In this context, the Cleveland School of Art is designed as CSA, the Cleveland Institute of Art as CIA, and the Cleveland Museum of Art as CMA. For the most part, especially for early programs, speaker descriptions were taken directly from the commencement programs. Where address titles were included in the program, they are listed after the speaker’s name and identifying description. Some speeches in the late 20th century were recorded; please see the archives sound recording index for that information. 


2020 - Brian Peterson (Class of 2009, Founder & CEO at Faces of Mankind); held online (COVID-19)
2021 - Angela Russo-Otstot, Anthony Russo, and Joe Russo (directors, writers, producers, actors); held online / at Mayfield Rd. Drive In (COVID-19)
2022 - Jeremy V. Johnson (President & CEO of Assembly for the Arts); held at the Maltz Performing Arts Center
2023 - Gloria Mark, PhD (Class of 1978, Professor, researcher, and author); held at the Maltz Performing Arts Center
2024 - Omari Souza (Class of 2009, Professor, designer, podcaster, and author); held at the Maltz Performing Arts Center




2010 - Catherine Gund (Documentary filmmaker and Founder Aubin Pictures); held at John Hay High School
2011 - Lowery Stokes Sims (Charles Bronfman International Curator at the Museum of Arts & Design New York City); held at CIA
2012 - Toby Devan Lewis (Curator, Philanthropist, Art Collector, Author); held at CMA
2013 - David Lee Csicsko (Class of 1980, Artist + Designer); held at CMA
2014 - Fred Bidwell (Interim Director, Cleveland Museum of Art); held at CMA
2015 - Brian Michael Bendis (Comic Book and Television Writer/Producer); held at CMA
2016 - Willem Dafoe (Actor); held at CMA
2017 - April Gornik (Artist); held at CMA
2018 - Kevin Geiger (Class of 1989, transmedia artist + producer); held at the Maltz Performing Arts Center
2019 - Dana Schutz (Class of 2000, painter); held at the Maltz Performing Arts Center

2000 - 2009

2000 - Marc Brown (Class of 1969); held at CIA
2001 - John Marshall (Diploma 1964, BFA 1965); held at CIA
2002 - Dave Hickey (Professor of Art and Theory, University of Nevada, Las Vegas); held at CIA
2003 - Anne Wilkes Tucker (Gus and Lyndall Wortham, Curator of Photography, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston); held at CIA
2004 - Gerald P Hirshberg (Class of 1963, 1971, Distinguished Alumnus); held at CIA
2005 - David A. Ross (President Artists' Pension Trust, New York; Principal 5ive [sic]; Curator); held at CIA
2006 - Tucker Viemeister (VP Creative, Studio Red at Rockwell); held at CIA
2007 - Timothy Rub (Director, Cleveland Museum of Art); held at CIA
2008 - John R. Nottingham, John W. Spirk (Class of 1972,Co-Presidents Nottingham-Spirk Design Associates, Inc); held at CIA
2009 - Bennett Peji (Principal, Bennett Peji Design and San Diego Commissioner of Arts and Culture); heald at CIA


1990 - Susan Wyatt (Executive Director Artists Space, New York); held at CIA
1991 - Dennis E. Moore (Producer-Director, Dennis Earl Moore Productions Inc., Distinguished Alumnus, Class of 1966); held at CIA
1992 - Gerald P. Hirshberg (Vice President Nissan Design International, Inc., Distinguished Alumnus); held at CIA
1993 - Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell (Dean Tish School of the Arts, New York University); held at CIA
1994 - Willis H. (Bing) Davis (Chairman Art Department, Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio); held at CIA
1995 - Peter B. Lewis (Chairman, President, & CEO Progressive Corporation); held at CIA
1996 - Phillip C. Johnson (Noted Architect); held at CIA
1997 - Elizabeth Murray (Painter); held at CIA
1998 - Dennis Barrie (President, Barrie Consulting); held at CIA
1999 - Garner Tullis (Artist and Collaborator); held at CIA


1980 - Arnold Herstand (Director, U.S. Office Galerie Maeght Paris, Zurich, Barcelona); “The Acceptance of the Artist: A Mixed Blessing”; held at CIA
1981 - Winfred Lutz (Institute Class of 1965, Gund Traveling Scholar, Director of Studies in Sculpture, Yale School of Art); “To Smile at the Cow or Be Eaten by the Horse”; held at CIA
1982 - William Collins (1982 Visiting Artist); “On Becoming an Artist”; held at CIA
1983 - Benny Andrews (Director, Visual Arts Program National Endowment for the Arts, Washington D.C.); “The Individual Artist, the Ultimate Individual”; held at CIA
1984 - George V. Baylis (Dean of the School of Art University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, President of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design); “Ad Astra Per Aspera”; held at CIA
1985 - Robert A Mayer (Director International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, New York); “Personal Integrity in the Quest for Excellence”: held at CIA
1986 - Patterson Sims (Associate Curator, Permanent Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art); “A Calling, Not a Career”; held at CIA
1987 - Dr. Theodore E. Klitzke (Dean Emeritus, The Maryland Institute College of Art); “Turn a Fresh Eye Upon the World”; held at CIA
1988 - Grace Hartigan (Distinguished Painter, Director, Hoffberger Graduate School of Painting, The Maryland Institute College of Art); “What’s New”; held at CIA
1989 - Moe Brooker (International Artist and Educator); “The Quality of Quality”; held at CIA


1970 - Hale Chatfield (Assistant Professor of English, Hiram College – Poet and Author); “Art as a Way of Life”; held at CIA
1971 - Dr. Sherman Lee (Director, Cleveland Museum of Art); “Eye Object”; held at CIA
1972 - Professor Paul B. Arnold (Chairman, Department of Art, Oberlin College); “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”; held at CIA
1973 - Dr. Roman Vishniac (Photo-Micrographer); “The final goal of our efforts should be the harmonious society and the creative individuum – or else”; held at CIA
1974 - Joseph Blotner (Professor of English, University of Michigan); “You are welcome to it”; held at CIA
1975 - Walter Darby Bannard (Painter, Art Critic); held at CIA
1976 - Gene Baro (Critic, Writer, Corcoran Gallery of Art Director); “Artists in their Times”; held at CIA
1977 - Andrew Forge (Dean, School of Art, Yale University); “Out on the Street”; held at CIA
1978 - James King (Chief Executive Kilkenny Design Workshops Limited); “Design and Enterprise”; held at CIA
1979 - Gideon Chagy (Vice President The Business Committee for the Arts, New York); “The Artist and the World of Business”; held at CIA


1960 - G. Brooks Earnest (President, Fenn College); “Art and Innovation”; held at CIA
1961 - Alfred B. Bonds, Jr. (President, Baldwin Wallace College); “Leprosy and Lollipops”; held at CIA
1962 - Frank H. Hurley (Dean, Faculty of Arts And Sciences, Western Reserve University); “The Ordinary and the Extraordinary”
1963 - Alfred B. Bonds, Jr. (President Baldwin Wallace College); “Art and The Crisis and Ethics”; held at CIA
1964 - Ralph M. Besse (President, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company); “A Balanced Culture”; held at CIA
1965 - Rowland P. McKinley, Jr. (Headmaster, University School); ‘Some Thoughts For The Creative – By One Who Is Not”; held at CIA
1966 - George H. Baird (Executive Director and President, Education Research Council of Greater Cleveland); “Pioneers of Art and Beauty”; held at CIA
1967 - Norman L. Rice (Dean, College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute of Technology); “First Person, Singular”; held at CIA
1968 - Dr. Paul W. Briggs (Superintendent, Cleveland Public Schools); “Creativity”; held at CIA
1969 - Dr. Robert Bertolli (President, Massachusetts College of Art and State Director of Art Education); “This Is Our Day”; held at CIA


1950 - Dr. John S. Millis (President of Western Reserve University); “Art and Intellect”; held at Severance Hall
1951 - Dr. Wolfgang Stechow (Oberlin College); “Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities”; held at CMA
1952 - Nathaniel R. Howard (Editor, The Cleveland News); “The Artist in Today’s World”; held at CMA
1953 - Professor Raymond T. English (Kenyon College); “Technique and Freedom”; held at CMA
1954 - Rev. Laurence H Hall (Senior Canon, Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland); held at CMA
1955 - Harold T. Clark (Trustee, Cleveland Institute of Art; President, Cleveland Museum on Art); held at CMA
1956 - (no program); invitations states held at CMA
1957 - George W. Walker (Vice President and Director of Styling Ford Motor Company); “Designing for Selling”; held at CIA
1958 - Sherman E. Lee (Director, The Cleveland Museum of Art); “The Responsibility of the Artist as an Individual”; held at CIA
1959 - Nathaniel R. Howard (Editor, The Cleveland News); “The Artist in the Atomic Age”; held at CIA


1940 - Mr. Henry G. Keller; held at CMA
1941 - Dr. Thomas Munro; held at CMA
1942 - Dr. Charles H. Lake; held at CMA
1943 - Professor Finley M. K. Foster, PhD; held at CSA
1944 - The Honorable Frank J. Lausche; held at CSA
1945 - Mr. Louis Seltzer; held at CSA
1946 - Dr. Joseph Remenyi; held at CMA
1947 - Dr. William Elgin Wickenden (President, Case School of Applied Science); held at CMA
1948 - Dr. Gordon K. Chalmers (President Kenyon College); held at CMA
1949 - Dr. Louis Warren (Director, Lincoln National Life Foundation); “Lincoln as an Inspiration in Art”: held at Severance Hall


1930 - Rev. Dilworth Lupton; “Zest for Living, a Key to Success”; held at CSA
1931 - Dr. William Elgin Wickenden (President, Case School of Applied Science); held at Severance Hall
1932 - Mr. William Mathewson Milliken (Director, Cleveland Museum of Art); held at CMA
1933 - Instead of a commencement address or message to the graduates, there was: “A Retrospective of the School’s First Fifty Years” by Mrs. Martha Tibbals Weaver & Mr. Henry George Keller; held at CMA
1934 - Mr. Louis Rorimer; held at CMA
1935 - Mrs. Malcolm L. McBride; held at CMA
1936 - Mr. Alfred Howell; held at CMA
1937 - Mr. Henry G. Keller; held at CMA
1938 - Mr. William M. Milliken; held at CMA
1939 - The Hon. Harold H. Burton; held at CMA


1920 - Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver (The Temple, Cleveland); “Making the Good Beautiful”; held at CSA
1921 - (no commencement address listed in the program; Pageant: “Our Heritage of Beauty; The Gifts of the Past to the Art Student of the Present. A Dramatic Review by the Interpreter. Text by Henry Turner Bailey”); held at CSA; [A pageant “to be presented … as a variation from the time honored commencement program of receiving diplomas and listening to addresses” PD article May 29, 1921] 
1922 - (no commencement address listed in the program; there was a “tableaux” and “mural” decoration entitled “The Gifts of the Art School to the Community: A Modern interpretation of ancient song of crafts in the books called Ecclesiasticus by Henry Turner Bailey”); held at CMA
1923 - (no commencement address listed in the program; there was a “tableaux” or pageant, with text by Henry Turner Bailey); held at CMA
1924 - (no commencement address listed in the program; separate document indicates that there was a reading of William Price’s allegory “the Artsman” by Mr. Frank Stephens of Arden Delaware); held at CMA
1925 - Professor Walter Sargent (University of Chicago); “The Mission of the Artist in the Twentieth Century”; held at CMA [PD article, June 5, 1925]
1926 - William McAndrew (Superintendent of Schools, Chicago); “Life, Liberty, Happiness and Art”: held at CMA
1927 - Dr. Henry Turner Bailey; held at CSA
1928 - Dr. Henry Turner Bailey; held at CMA
1929 - Royal B. Farnum; held at CSA


1900 - Mr. George Hartnell Bartlett (Principal of the Massachusetts Normal Art School, Boston); held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 14, 1900]
1901 - Mr. Charles De Kay (Director, National Arts Club, New York City); held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 13, 1901; quotes some of the address]
1902 - Mr. A. H. Griffith (Director, Detroit Museum of Art); “Art Galleries and Museums: their Value to the People”; held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 12, 1902]
1903 - Rev. Minot Osgood Simons (Unity Church); “Loyalty to Art Development”; held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 4, 1903]
1904 - Mrs. A. A. F. Johnston (Professor of Medieval History, Oberlin College); “History in Architecture”; held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 12, 1904]
1906 - George W. Stevens (Director of Toledo Museum of Art); [PD article June 12, 1906]
1907 - Prof. Henry Turner Bailey (of Boston) [PD article June 11, 1907; quotes at length from the address]
1908 - Rev. Ward Beecher Pickard (former pastor of Epworth Memorial church) [PD article June 9, 1908; quotes at length from the address]
1909 - Mr. Halsey C. Ives (Director, Saint Louis Museum of Fine Arts); “Art a Factor in the Material Development of a People” [PD article June 4, 1909; quotes at length from the address]
1911 - [“ … dispensing with the usual commencement day addresses … Miss Georgia Leighton Norton, principal of the school, gave a brief address …” PD article June 11, 1911]
1912 - (no commencement address listed in the program)
1913 - (no commencement address listed in the program) [Rev. Dr. Paul F. Stephen PD article June 1, 1913]
1914 - [Mrs. Stevenson Burke PD article June 14, 1914; quotes from the address]
1915 - (no commencement address listed in the program)
1916 - Frederic Allen Whiting (Director, Cleveland Museum of Art) [PD article May 28, 1916]
1917 - Dr. Henry Turner Bailey (Editor of the School Arts Magazine, Boston, Massachusetts) ; “Mission of Art School Graduates”
1918 - Dr. Henry Turner Bailey (Dean of The Cleveland School of Art and Advisor in Educational Work, The Cleveland Museum of Art)
1919 - James Frederick Hopkins (Director of Art Education for Massachusetts, The Massachusetts Normal Art School, Boston)


1886 - two addresses: Gen’L M.D. Leggett, Rev W.V. W. Davis; held at Willson Avenue [PD article June 29, 1886]
1887 - [Rev. Dr. Cyrus Bates (of St. Paul’s) and Dr. S. P. Sprecher (of the Euclid avenue Presbyterian Church) PD article, July 1, 1887]
1888 - [Rev. Dr. Ladd and Rev. Y. P. Morgan PD article June 16, 1888]
1889 - [Rev. H. C. Haydn (of Western Reserve University), Principal N. A. Wells, and Miss Luella Varney PD article June 5, 1889]
1891 - [President Charles F. Thwing (of Western Reserve University), Prof. W. I. Thomas (of Oberlin College), and Dr. F. L. Hosmer (of Unity Church) PD article June 2, 1891]
1892 - Mr. George H. Bartlett (Principal of the Massachusetts Normal Art School, Boston)
1893 - [Prof. Henry T. Bailey (of the Massachusetts state board of education) [PD article June 15, 1893; quotes much of the address]
1894 - [Judge Stevenson Burke and Miss Georgia Norton, PD article June 13, 1894]
1895 - Rev. Marion Murdock (Unity Church); held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 10, 1895]
1896 - Rev. Henry M. Ladd (Euclid Avenue Congregational church); held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 19, 1896]
1897 - Rabbi Moses J. Gries; held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 17, 1897; some remarks quoted]
1898 - Mr. L. H. Jones (Superintendent of Cleveland Public Schools); “Art and the Art of Living”; held at Epworth Memorial Church; [PD article June 16, 1898]
1899 - [Prof. H. W. Hulbert PD article June 15, 1899]