On Wednesday, May 17, Pratt Institute degree candidates will gather in their caps and gowns at Radio City Music Hall in the heart of Manhattan for Pratt Institute’s 134th Commencement. The Institute will commemorate the achievements of more than 1,300 graduating students at the iconic venue and confer their degrees during a ceremony that will begin at 10 AM. 

This year, graphic designer, civil rights activist, and Pratt alumna Cheryl D. Miller will receive an honorary degree and deliver the Commencement address. Additionally, honorary degrees will be awarded to Pratt alumna and architectural interior designer Hiroko Nakamoto and artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson.  

Cheryl D. Miller’s honorary degree will be conferred in recognition of her tremendous influence within the design profession, her commitment to end the marginalization of BIPOC designers, and her work as a theologian and revisionist historian. The Institute is honoring the breadth of her commitments, including her activism, industry exposé writing, research rigor, and archival vision. A national leader of minority rights, gender, race diversity, equality, equity, and inclusion advocacy in graphic design, Miller is the founder of the former Cheryl D. Miller Design, Inc., NYC, a social impact design firm. In addition to her design work, she is also an author, educator, trade writer for PRINT magazine and Communication Arts magazine, theologian, and a decolonizing design historian.

Dr. Miller has an MS in Communications Design from Pratt Institute and a BFA in Graphic Design from Maryland Institute College of Art.  She completed Foundation Studies at Rhode Island School of Design, and has a Doctor of Humane Letters from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a MDiv from Union Theological Seminary. She received a doctor of humane letters from Vermont College of Fine Arts (2020), a doctor of fine arts from Maryland Institute College of Art (2022) and Rhode Island School of Design (2022), and an MDiv from Union Theological Seminary. In 2021, she was an AIGA medalist for “expanding access,” a Cooper Hewitt Design Visionary awardee, an honorary IBM Design Scholar, and an Eminent Luminary and The One Club Creative Hall of Fame inductee (2022). A recipient of countless awards, she is dedicated to visual arts advancement. The Cheryl D. Miller Collection at Stanford University is her professional firm’s legacy archive, which includes her memoir research and manuscripts. The collection features Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, corporate communications developed for Fortune 500 corporations, and corporate communications for national African American organizations developed post-civil rights era (1974–1994). She is further archiving the history of Black graphic design in North America, collected at both Stanford University and The Herb Lubalin Center, Cooper Union. She is professor of diversity, equity, and inclusion in communication design at the Art Center College of Design; distinguished senior lecturer in design at the University of Texas, Austin; E.W. Doty Fellow 2021; and adjunct professor at Howard University. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Vermont College of Fine Arts and the President’s Global Advisory Board of Maryland Institute College of Art. 

Hiroko Nakamoto’s honorary degree will be conferred in recognition of her pioneering work as an architectural interior designer in Japan and around the world. Nakamoto credits her Pratt Institute education as central to all she has accomplished in her professional career, and after leaving the Institute, she went on to land a position with the noted William Stephenson, AIA, office in Los Angeles. By 1966, she had established the Hiroko Nakamoto Interior Design Studio in Tokyo. Her many projects have included interiors as well as work for the Embassies of Switzerland, New Zealand, and South Africa; Mobil Oil; Manufacturers Hanover Trust, Tokyo; Kyoto Century Hotel; Hakkoda Hotel; Takanawa Prince Hotel – Le Trianon; and the official residence of Prince and Princess Tomohito of Mikasa.

As a young girl, Nakamoto survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima as she walked on a narrow street in Zone No. 1—a mile from the impact site—by being blown into a building. Nakamoto detailed her experiences and the loss, that day, of her mother and sister in the memoir A Survivor’s Account of the Atomic Bomb Blast. Nakamoto is also the author of a junior book, My Japan: 1930–1951. Driven by deep confidence in the power of reflection, in 1983 she founded the landmark Hiroshima Gateway to World Peace. The organization was created to establish a memorial complex for teaching and healing in the Japanese city featuring a tall, shining sculpture by Toshiharu Miki at the center of a green space. Located near the Hiroshima Railway Station beside the Enkoe River, the Gateway to World Peace (dedicated 2006) includes 10 glass panels containing words that express and reflect on our collective humanity, and is designed especially for young visitors to think of what they can do to create a peaceful world. In addition to her illustrious design career, Nakamoto is also an artist. She is a notable alumna of Bowling Green State University (BFA ’54). Nakamoto currently lives in Tokyo and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s honorary degree will be conferred in recognition of her prescient work as a new media artist and filmmaker. Cited as one of the most influential media artists, Hershman Leeson is widely recognized for her innovative work investigating issues that are now recognized as key to the workings of society: the relationship between humans and technology, identity, surveillance, and the use of media as a tool of empowerment against censorship and political repression. Over the last 50 years, she has made pioneering contributions to the fields of photography, video, film, performance, artificial intelligence, bio art, installation, and interactive media as well as net-based media art. Hershman Leeson’s six feature films, Strange Culture, Teknolust, Conceiving Ada, !Women Art Revolution: A Secret History, Tania Libre, and The Electronic Diaries, are all in worldwide distribution and have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, and Berlin International Film Festival, among others. Her work on Teknolust earned her the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Prize for writing and directing. !Women Art Revolution received the Grand Prize Festival of Films on Art.

Hershman Leeson’s influence has been recognized via many other awards and accolades, including a Siggraph Lifetime Achievement Award, Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a USA Artist Fellowship, and the San Francisco Film Society’s Persistence of Vision Award. In 2023, Creative Capital awarded her their Distinguished Artist Award and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art  acquired the museum’s first NFT from her. Artwork by Hershman Leeson is also featured in the public collections of The Museum of Modern Art, Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Tate Modern, the National Gallery of Canada, Walker Art Center, and many celebrated private collections. ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany, produced the first comprehensive publication of her work, Civic Radar, which Holland Cotter named as “one of the indispensable art books of 2016,” in The New York Times. A retrospective of Hershman Leeson’s work, Lynn Hershman Leeson: Twisted, was featured at the New Museum in 2021. She is represented by Bridget Donahue in New York; Altman Siegel in San Francisco; Waldburger Wouters in Brussels; and ShanghART in China.