Academy Award-winning actor and renowned social activist Forest Whitaker will return to his hometown of Carson on May 16 to receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) and serve as a keynote speaker during the university’s College of Arts and Humanities Commencement Ceremony.
The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. in the StubHub Center Tennis Stadium on campus and is one of five college-based commencements taking place May 15 and 16 in celebration of the approximately 4,000 students graduating from CSUDH.
Forest Whitaker is the founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), an international non-profit organization that helps societies impacted by destructive conflicts transform into safer and more-prosperous communities.
He is also the co-founder and chair of the International Institute for Peace, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation and UN advocate for children affected by war. In addition to his humanitarian work, Whitaker is one of Hollywood’s most accomplished and versatile figures. He has received many distinctions for his acting, including the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the “The Last King of Scotland.”
Whitaker’s artistic and humanitarian achievements have been widely recognized at home and abroad. He has received the Cinema for Peace Award, the Humanitas Prize, the NAACP Chairman’s Award, the Los Angeles Press Club’s Visionary Award, Refugees International’s McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s Joel Siegel Award. He currently serves as a senior research scholar at Rutgers University and as a visiting professor at Ringling College of Art and Design.
In 2014, the College of Arts and Humanities at CSUDH and faculty in its Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding program began collaborating with WPDI to jointly create a conflict-resolution middle school curriculum for WPDI’s Domestic Harmonizer Program. There are possibilities of extending the collaboration to WPDI’s international programs in South Sudan, Uganda, Mexico, and Myanmar, and of creating internship opportunities for CSUDH students with WPDI.
Honorary doctorates are given by the CSU Board of Trustees in the name of the California State University and in the name of the campus conferring them. Since the first CSU honorary degree was awarded to then-President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the 23 CSU campuses have awarded such honors to 481 distinguished individuals who have demonstrated excellence in areas that benefit humanity, CSU campuses, the state, nation and/or world.
CSUDH has bestowed honorary doctorates to such renowned individuals as former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, radio commentator Tavis Smiley, and Boys Choir of Harlem founder Walter Turnball, along with notable leaders and business people in the South Bay of Los Angeles, including former Toyota Chairman Yukiyasu Togo and former Carson Mayor Gil Smith.