The Commencement Show with Jay Leno

by Laura Gomez / Beacon Staff • April 24, 2014

The graduating class of 2014 will have Jay Leno, a 1972 Emerson graduate and accomplished TV personality, as its commencement speaker during the undergraduate ceremony May 11.

Sana Bakshi, a senior marketing communications major, said her parents, who are flying in from California, “are really stoked” about seeing Leno. 

“I’m super excited,” said Bakshi. “I watch commencement speeches for fun.”

The college will also grant Leno an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. CNN anchor Don Lemon, NPR host Scott Simon, and Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of The Greater Boston Food Bank, will also receive honorary degrees during the 134th undergraduate graduation held at the Agganis Arena, a Boston University venue with over 8,000 seats. 

Steve Burns, a senior journalism major, said he is a big fan of Lemon and Simon, and thinks D’Amato is deserving of the honorary recognition, but is not happy about the college’s choice of Leno.

“I think it’s Emerson making a PR splash, as usual,” said Burns, adding that he dislikes Leno for “backstabbing his coworkers” Johnny Carson and Conan O’Brien. “He is not really viewed as someone who pushed the envelope, as far as I’m concerned.”

Najah Muhammad, a senior performing arts major and vice president of the Senior Class Council, said she was surprised and excited when she learned about the announcement.

“Some people are upset,” she said, “but that’s because you can’t please everybody.”


Deputy arts editor Erica Mixon contributed to this report.