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Concert Pianist Awadagin Pratt to Deliver Commencement Address
Awadagin Pratt

May 01, 2018

Pratt, Attorney John A. Carpenter to Receive Honorary Degrees

Concert pianist Awadagin Pratt will deliver the keynote address at Susquehanna's 160th commencement on Wednesday, May 16, which begins at 1 p.m. in the James W. Garrett Sports Complex Field House. 

Approximately 475 students are expected to graduate. Baccalaureate will be held Tuesday, May 15, at 8 p.m. in a tent on Smith Field, followed by a gala celebration in the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center from 9 to 11 p.m. 

During the May 16 commencement ceremonies, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree will be bestowed upon Pratt. Sunbury attorney John A. Carpenter, an emeritus member of Susquehanna's Board of Trustees, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at a separate occasion the following week. 

Born in Pittsburgh, Pratt began studying piano at the age of 6. Three years later, having moved to Normal, Ill., with his family, he also began studying violin. At the age of 16, he entered the University of Illinois where he studied piano, violin and conducting. He subsequently enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he became the first student in the school's history to receive diplomas in three performance areas—piano, violin and conducting. In recognition of this achievement and for his work in the field of classical music, Pratt recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University.

In 1992, Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition and two years later was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Since then, he has played numerous recitals throughout the United States, including performances at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Chicago's Orchestra Hall and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. His many orchestral performances include appearances with the New York Philharmonic and Minnesota Orchestra, as well as the Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Baltimore, St. Louis, National, Detroit and New Jersey symphonies among many others.

As a conductor, Pratt participated in American Symphony Orchestra League and Conductor's Guild workshops and the National Conducting Institute, where he worked closely with Leonard Slatkin and conducted the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. He has also conducted the Toledo, New Mexico, Vancouver, Winston-Salem, Santa Fe and Prince George County symphonies, the Northwest Sinfonietta, the Concertante di Chicago and several orchestras in Japan.

Internationally, Pratt has toured Japan four times and performed in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Israel, Columbia and South Africa.

He is currently a professor of piano at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

John A. Carpenter

Carpenter first joined Susquehanna's Board of Trustees and executive committee in 1974, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who also served in those roles as attorneys at law in Sunbury. John became the third generation of Carpenters to serve as the university's solicitor as well, his grandfather having begun in that role in the early 1900s.

Carpenter's work as Susquehanna's solicitor was diverse and often challenging. During his tenure, the university's physical space expanded considerably, through land acquisition and building of residence halls, academic buildings and sports facilities. Through the leadership of former President L. Jay Lemons, the university continued to grow in student enrollment as well. Carpenter assisted with the complex purchases of two properties adjacent to campus that had become available for purchase-a housing complex that was subsequently converted to student housing and the St. Pius X Catholic Church property, which became the Geisinger—Susquehanna Health Center.

During this time, the school also faced some unusual legal challenges that required not only expert, but wise counsel, which Carpenter skillfully provided. Upon retiring from active service on the Board of Trustees, he had served as a trusted advisor to five Susquehanna presidents.

Carpenter graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in 1955. Upon graduation, he entered the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His legal studies were interrupted briefly for service in the U.S. Army, after which he returned to law school and graduated in 1958. He later joined the family law practice in 1959.

Throughout his career, Carpenter has also been a strong supporter of community organizations. He served Sunbury Community Hospital as board chair for many years, and also chaired the Sunbury YMCA board. He was active with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, serving on the Continuing Legal Education Board and as president in 1989-90. He was also on the boards of many other organizations in the region, often serving as an officer. Based on this record, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The Carpenter family's legacy continues at Susquehanna through the students they support, thanks to the endowed Carpenter Scholarship established in 1987.    

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