Actress and Activist Laverne Cox to Keynote 2019 Pitzer College Commencement

Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox (Photo by Melissa Hamburg)

Claremont, Calif. (February 26, 2019) – Pitzer College’s Class of 2019 has selected award-winning transgender actress, producer and equal rights advocate Laverne Cox to keynote this year’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18, at 10 a.m. on campus.

Cox is a two-time Emmy-nominated actress and Emmy-winning producer best known for her work on the critically acclaimed Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. Cox is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show and the first openly trans person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category.  She is also the first trans woman of color to produce and star in her own television show, VH1’s TRANSForm Me, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. Cox is the first trans woman of color to appear on an American reality television program, VH1’s I Wanna Work for Diddy, for which she accepted the GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Reality Program.” She also received GLAAD’s 2014 Stephen F. Kolzak Award in recognition of her work promoting LGBTQ equality.

In addition to her acting, Cox is a renowned speaker who encourages her audience to live more authentically.

Traditionally, each Pitzer graduating class selects its commencement keynote speaker. The members of the Class of 2019 also select their class speaker, student marshals and honored guest. 

This year’s senior class speaker is Jacquelyn Aguilera. The student marshals are Menna Bizuneh, assistant professor economics and Barbara Junisbai, assistant professor of organizational studies. The class also selected Dan Hirsch, dean of campus life, as their honored guest.

This year’s faculty marshals are Melinda Herrold-Menzies, professor of environmental analysis and associate dean of faculty, and Claudia Strauss, professor of anthropology.

The 55th Pitzer College Commencement ceremony will take place at the Stephen L. Glass Commencement Plaza.  

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

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