Poet Sonia Sanchez to Receive Honorary Degree, Address Class of 2022 at Arcadia University Commencement

By Daniel DiPrinzio | March 22, 2022
Sonia Sanchez seated at a library and leaning on a table

Arcadia University is proud to announce that renowned poet, activist, and scholar Sonia Sanchez will receive an honorary doctoral degree and address the Class of 2022 at Commencement ceremonies on Thursday and Friday, May 19-20. 

Arcadia is one of the first institutions in the nation to offer women higher learning opportunities and has long championed freedom of expression, intellectual curiosity, and advocacy for those without voice or agency. 

“In many ways, our institution’s values and mission align with themes found in Ms. Sanchez’s storied poetry, teaching, and experiences,” says Dr. Ajay Nair, president of Arcadia University. “Hearing directly from Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate and legendary ‘Freedom Sister’ will be a fitting culmination for Arcadia’s Class of 2022, many of whom have taken on leadership roles with our University’s anti-Black Racism Initiatives and Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion efforts. Having Ms. Sanchez as part of our Commencement celebration will be a seminal moment in Arcadia’s 169-year history.” 

Sanchez is considered one of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, which aimed for a renewal of black will, insight, energy, and awareness. She is a national and international lecturer on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace, and racial justice. She has read her poetry in Africa, the Caribbean, China, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, and Canada, in addition to her native country.

Sanchez is this year’s winner of the Edward MacDowell Medal, a lifetime achievement honor started in 1960 and previously given to Robert Frost, Toni Morrison, and Stephen Sondheim, among others. Last year, she received the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, a lifetime achievement honor previously given to Chinua Achebe, Bob Dylan, and Maya Lin, among others. Sanchez was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began working in 1977. She was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple until her retirement in 1999. She was named Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate in 2011.

Sanchez received the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award, among many other honors. The author of 16 books, Sanchez is among 20 African American women who are part of “Freedom’s Sisters,” a mobile exhibition initiated by the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Smithsonian Institution. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Sanchez earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1955 from Hunter College in New York City. She did postgraduate work at New York University, where she studied poetry with Louise Bogan.

Arcadia University will award doctoral and master’s degrees to candidates on Thursday, May 19 and baccalaureate degrees to candidates on Friday, May 20. Arcadia’s Commencement season also includes University events such as the Lavender Ceremony and ALANA and International Student Recognition Ceremony.