Nashville Mayor Karl Dean will deliver the Commencement address to the 2014 graduating class of Watkins College of Art, Design & Film on Saturday, May 17. Mayor Dean will also receive the Honorary Degree, Doctor of Fine Arts from Watkins during ceremonies at the Downtown Presbyterian Church, which will begin at 2 p.m.
“Mayor Dean has demonstrated extraordinary leadership broadly and a commitment to the arts specifically, and we are thrilled to welcome him back to Watkins for this milestone,” said Ellen L. Meyer, president of Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. “His significant support of art in public places and encouragement of performing and visual artists have helped elevate Nashville to a place of global recognition for our creativity and cultural vitality.”
Previous recipients of the honorary degree from Watkins include author/illustrator David Macaulay (2013), cultural policy expert Bill Ivey (2012), and Albert Hadley (2010), noted interior designer who studied at Watkins Institute in his youth.
The sixth mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Karl Dean has made priorities of improving schools, making neighborhoods safer and bringing more and better jobs to Nashville. He also works to sustain and improve Nashville’s high quality of life through numerous initiatives that promote health, sustainability and volunteerism.
A hallmark of his tenure is emphasis on attracting and supporting creators and patrons of the performing and visual arts. Among notable arts-related accomplishments are creation of the city’s first formal “arts district”—5th Avenue of the Arts downtown—and the extensive public art collection at the Music City Center convention space. Mayor Dean championed the 60-unit Ryman Lofts, Nashville’s first affordable community designed specifically for musicians and artists, which opened in 2013 at full capacity. Seeing the need to build a bridge between the music industry and the broader business community in Nashville, Mayor Dean formed the Music City Music Council in 2009, an association of business and entertainment leaders charged with developing strategies to grow and diversify Nashville’s worldwide reputation as Music City. MC2 efforts yielded the revolutionary Music Makes Us: The Nashville Music Education Project in Metro schools. Last fall, the the Film Television Transmedia Council, comprised of non-profit organizations, educational institutions, city and state offices related to film and television, was created with support from the Mayor’s Office.
Mayor Dean first held public office when he was elected as Nashville’s Public Defender in 1990, a post he was re-elected to in 1994 and 1998. He served as Metro Law Director from 1999 to January 2007, when he resigned to begin his mayoral campaign. He was elected to the office on Sept. 11, 2007, and re-elected on Aug. 4, 2011
An adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, Mayor Dean holds a B.A. degree from Columbia University and a J.D. from Vanderbilt, and completed the program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Watkins’ 2014 Commencement is open to the public. After a welcome from President Meyer, Mayor Dean will receive the Honorary Degree, Doctor of Fine Arts, and then deliver the Commencement address. Following his remarks, Vice President for Academic Affairs Joy McKenzie will present BFA, BA and Certificate candidates in film, fine art, graphic design, interior design and photography, and Samuel E. Stumpf, Jr., chair of the Watkins Board of Trustees, will confer the degrees and certificates.
The historic Downtown Presbyterian Church (dpchurch.com), a national landmark noted for its Egyptian Revival motif, is located at 154 5th Avenue North (corner of 5th and Church Street).