James Pickens Jr., a BGSU alumnus and star of the television series “Grey’s Anatomy,” will be the speaker at summer commencement Saturday (Aug. 9).
Pickens, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Bowling Green in 1976, will also receive the University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award during graduation. The ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. on the University Hall lawn or, in the event of rain, in Anderson Arena in Memorial Hall.
Pickens portrays Dr. Richard Webber on “Grey’s Anatomy” and has a Screen Actors Guild award to his credit as part of the ABC series’ award-winning ensemble cast. He has received two NAACP Image Award nominations for his role as well.
Pickens began acting at Cleveland’s Karamu House, distinguished as the oldest African-American theater in the United States. After moving to New York, he performed in the 1981 production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play” at the Negro Ensemble Company with fellow cast members Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. He also starred in the 25th anniversary revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” at the Roundabout Theater.
In 1990, Pickens moved to the West Coast and began an impressive run of film performances, including roles in “Traffic,” “Sleepers,” “Ghosts of Mississippi” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” He is well known to television audiences, too, for his roles on “NYPD Blue,” “The X-Files,” “The West Wing“ and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” among others.
Pickens came full circle with Karamu House in 2006 when he served as executive producer of the musical review “Gospel, Gospel, Gospel,” which opened to rave reviews.
A man of wide-ranging interests, the actor is also active in the U.S. Team Roping Championships, roping cattle on horseback at events across the country.
About 1,280 students will receive degrees at Saturday’s commencement. Representing 64 Ohio counties, 35 states and 28 nations, the summer graduating class includes nearly 40 students who will receive associate degrees and just over 600 who will receive graduate degrees. Among the graduate students are 37 Ph.D. candidates and more than 550 master’s degree candidates.
Of the roughly 640 students receiving bachelor’s degrees, about 95 are expected to graduate with honors. Thirteen students are expected to graduate summa cum laude, for maintaining a grade point average between 3.9 and 4.0. Eighteen degree candidates are expected to graduate magna cum laude, for maintaining grade averages in the 3.76-3.9 range, and 51 candidates are eligible for cum laude recognition, for averages in the 3.5-3.75 range. In addition, 12 students receiving associate degrees will graduate with distinction and one, with high distinction.