Best-selling Author to Deliver Commencement Address

Susquehanna University
Azar Nafisi

April 01, 2019

Author Azar Nafisi will deliver the keynote address at Susquehanna University's 161st commencement on Wednesday, May 15, which begins at 1 p.m. in the James W. Garrett Sports Complex Field House.

Approximately 525 students are expected to graduate. Baccalaureate will be held Tuesday, May 14, at 8 p.m. in Garrett Sports Complex, followed by a gala celebration in the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center from 9 to 11 p.m.

During the May 15 commencement ceremonies, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree will be bestowed upon Nafisi, as well as former University President L. Jay Lemons and his wife, Marsha, and Peter Nunn, former vice chair of Susquehanna's Board of Trustees.

Nafisi is the author of the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which offers readers a harrowing portrait of the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students. 

Nafisi is a visiting professor and the executive director of Cultural Conversations at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. She is also a professor of aesthetics, culture and literature, and teaches courses on the relation between culture and politics. Nafisi held a fellowship at Oxford University, teaching and conducting a series of lectures on culture and the important role of Western literature and culture in Iran after the revolution in 1979.

She taught at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University and Allameh Tabatabai before her return to the United States in 1997-earning national respect and international recognition for advocating on behalf of Iran's intellectuals and youth-especially young women. In 1981, she was expelled from the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the mandatory Islamic veil and did not resume teaching until 1987.

Nafisi's latest book, That Other World: Nabokov and the Puzzle of Exile, is forthcoming from Yale University Press this summer. The Republic of the Imagination: A Life in Books, was published in 2014, and Things I've been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter, was published in 2008.

L. Jay Lemons

Jay Lemons served as Susquehanna's president from 2001 to 2017. Prior to that, he served as chancellor of the University of Virginia's (UVA) College at Wise, UVA's public liberal arts college.

Lemons' 16-year tenure at Susquehanna was marked by great change. The university developed three strategic plans during that time that emphasized intellectual engagement and a stronger university community, the result of which earned Susquehanna a highly coveted commendation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in 2014.

Lemons oversaw the growth of the student body and expansion of the campus footprint by spearheading the acquisition and development of key real estate, allowing for additional student housing, a Geisinger Medical Center-affiliated student health complex and a research lab that assists in ensuring the water quality of the Susquehanna River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

He also implemented capital improvements of more than $125 million, including the LEED-certified Natural Sciences Center and Admission House, and led the university through its largest fundraising campaign to date, which helped grow the university's endowment to $150 million.

A native of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, Lemons earned bachelor's degrees in philosophy and physical education and health education from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1983. He went on to earn a master's degree in educational psychology and college student development from the University of Nebraska in 1985. He received his Ph.D. in higher education administration in 1991 from the University of Virginia (UVA). In 2001, he was recognized by UVA's Curry School of Education with its distinguished alumni award, and in 2002, Nebraska Wesleyan conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Lemons currently serves as president of Academic Search, based in Washington, D.C., which places higher education leaders across the country and world.

Marsha Lemons

Marsha Lemons grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a bachelor's degree in psychology, and later a master's degree from Texas A&M University.

She first began her professional work at Nebraska Wesleyan in residence life, and then took a position at Texas A&M in student affairs. She also served in a fundraising capacity for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Charlottesville, Virginia, prior to her work in university relations and as assistant to the president at UVA.

Currently, Lemons serves on the boards of Setebaid, which provides a camp experience for children with diabetes and Transitions of PA, a crisis center that provides advocacy, empowerment, and education to victims and survivors of violence and abuse. She also serves on the Women United committee of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, the fundraising committee of the Snyder Country Library system, is co-chair of the Downtown Decorating Committee of Selinsgrove, and is a member of the Snyder County Prison Book Club.

Lemons is a former chair of the Snyder County Libraries board and was a member of a small group of local citizens who raised $3.6 million for library renovations. In 2016, she was honored by the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way as the recipient of the Pat Toole Award.

Peter Nunn

Peter Nunn graduated from Susquehanna in 1957 with a degree in accounting. As a student, he played on the varsity football team, was a member of Phi Mu Delta and Pi Gamma Mu, and was a class officer.

Nunn served on Susquehanna's Board of Trustees from 1984 until 2019, when he was awarded emeritus status. He and his wife, Ruth, a 1955 graduate of Susquehanna, have been active supporters of Susquehanna for many years. Nunn had the distinction of being the first chair of the Audit Committee; a position he held for 34 years. In addition to serving as a board vice chair, he was an instrumental member of numerous campaign committees. He served as president of the university's alumni association. In 1985, he received the SU Alumni Association Service Award and in 1997, he was awarded its achievement award, a distinction held by only three other alumni.

Nunn began a 40-year career at Coopers & Lybrand in 1957 in the firm's Philadelphia office. Thirteen years later he moved to the firm's Washington, D.C., office as a partner.

In addition to volunteering his time and talents to his alma mater, he found time to help local charities. He served on the board of Columbia Women's Hospital and the Support Center, which assists nonprofit organizations with accounting and business matters. A member of Rotary International, he is a former vice president of the Washington, D.C., chapter and recipient of the Outstanding Rotarian Award in 1980.

What's Next?