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Actor, Assemblywoman Distinguished Alumni At Purchase Commencement Ceremony

Jay O. Sanders Photo Credit: Provided
Assemblywoman Latrice Walker Photo Credit: Provided
Commencement speaker Alex Lally Photo Credit: Provided/ SUNY Purchase

Two Purchase College graduates will be honored as "distinguished alumni" on Friday, May 18 during the SUNY college's 46th annual commencement.

The ceremony begins at 12:30 p.m. at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

Degrees will be conferred upon nearly 1,100 graduating scholars representing dozens of majors and several countries.  The day will feature the lively music of Purchase faculty member Joe Ferry and the Big Ska Band.

This year, acclaimed actor Jay O. Sanders ‘76 and state Assemblywoman Latrice Walker ‘01 will receive the President’s Award for Distinguished Alumni.

Alex Lally, a design technology major and student athlete from Sunnyvale, Texas, will speak on behalf of the senior class.

Purchase College President Thomas J. Schwarz said, “Though many look at graduation as an end, the word commencement itself refers to a beginning. I have no doubt that this year’s graduating class will continue in the Purchase tradition of 'Thinking Wide Open' as they forge new pathways and uphold the values they have learned at Purchase, much like the distinguished alumni we are honoring this year. ”

Sanders graduated from Horace Greeley High School in 1971 and earned a BFA in Theatre Arts from Purchase College in 1976.

Cast in both plays at Shakespeare in the Park his first summer out of college, Sanders has since become one of the most familiar faces at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater.

Sanders went on to work in the acting companies of the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, before returning to New York where he was cast in the Off-Broadway premiere of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child -- which won the Pulitzer Prize.

His first feature film, "Starting Over," was  with Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh and Candace Bergen. Sanford made his Broadway debut in Michael Weller’s "Loose Ends" at the Circle in the Square.

At the Public Theater, where he has been a regular presence for over 40 years, Sanders played George W. Bush in David Hare’s "Stuff Happens," the title role in "Titus Andronicus," and leading roles in their Shakespeare in the Park productions.

Sanders recently returned from a 2017 world tour out of the Public of Richard Nelson’s trilogy "The Gabriel Family; Election Year in the Life of One Family" with his wife, Maryann Plunkett.

This past winter, Sanders appeared at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater in the title role of a highly acclaimed production of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," prompting  a Los Angeles Times drama critic to proclaim him “an unsung national treasure.”

Sanders also has done extensive filmwork -- including JFK, The Day After Tomorrow, Tumbleweeds, Edge of Darkness, and Angels in the Outfield as well as television (Sneaky Pete, True Detective, Blindspot, Law & Order and Roseanne).

He has returned to Purchase College for more than 20 years to teach master's classes to drama students, exploring how to make a life as an artist.

Latrice Monique Walker of Brooklyn received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and political science as a member of the Purchase College class of 2001.

She went on to earn a law degree from Pace University in 2006. A native New Yorker committed to helping her community of Brownsville in Brooklyn, she started a career in government as counsel to U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke.

Walker was elected to the state Assembly in 2014. She is known for devoting her energies to her constituents, supporting affordable housing, protecting voting rights, and defending the rights of tenants and young minorities unable to advocate for themselves.

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