HomeAnnouncements2024 Commencement Speakers Announced

2024 Commencement Speakers Announced

Corbin Bleu, an accomplished screen and stage actor, will be the keynote speaker at the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 17, 2024, at the Total Mortgage Arena, Bridgeport, Conn. The ceremony begins with an academic procession at 10:15 a.m.

Ted Yang, a member of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR), the governing body for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system, will address the Graduate Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 17, 2024, at the Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. The ceremony begins with an academic procession at 4 p.m.

Robin Kanarek, president of the Kanarek Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization founded with her husband, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the undergraduate ceremony.

Corbin Bleu

Actor and Singer – Undergraduate Commencement

A versatile and accomplished individual, Corbin Bleu comes from an extensive background in film, television, and theater. He has established himself as an actor, singer/songwriter, dancer, voiceover/recording artist, host/television personality, and producer. Bleu is probably best known for his role as “Chad Danforth” in Disney’s Emmy Award-winning High School Musical franchise.

In theater, Bleu most recently starred as “Seymour” in the Off-Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors opposite Constance Wu, and will be reprising his role opposite Jinkx Monsoon when he returns to the production in June. Before that, Bleu led the cast of the American Songbook musical Summer Stock for its world premiere at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn. 

Bleu’s television credits include: DynastySupergirlChicago MedThe MiddleThe FostersCastlePsychFranklin & Bash, and Blue Bloods. Bleu also partnered with Karina Smirnoff on the multi-Emmy Award-winning ABC hit Dancing with the Stars, placing a close second. In 2022, Bleu appeared in Fox‘s four-part TV event The Real Dirty Dancing, a one-of-a-kind competition featuring celebrities reliving the most memorable moments from the classic film. Bleu and his competition partner, celebrity chef Cat Cora, came in first place.

Bleu returned to some familiar territory in 2022 recurring in the third season, and upcoming fourth season of the Disney+ series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Bleu played himself, star of the High School Musical franchise.

Bleu is the chair of the National Advisory Board of the Looking Ahead Program, a division of the Entertainment Community Fund (formerly known as The Actors Fund) focused on helping professional young performers and their families thrive amid the unique challenges of working in the entertainment industry. He also dedicates himself to giving back through programs such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Starlight Children’s Foundation, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Ted Yang

Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education – Graduate Commencement

Ted Yang has founded numerous companies and non-profits, including as founder and CEO of 4-CT, Connecticut’s largest COVID-19 relief fund. Some of his current companies include Daily Voice, Highclere Castle Spirits, Playerpulse, Adapt Beauty, and Gather Insurance. He was a founder of the Stamford Innovation Center and a founding partner of Social Venture Partners, Connecticut.

Yang was a capital markets executive with CTO and leadership positions at banks and hedge funds, including Citigroup, Tudor, Citadel, and Bridgewater. He is chairman of Connex Partners and sits on other boards, including ChemPacific Corporation and formerly the Wiki Education Foundation.

Yang is the author of Table for Five: A Father’s Story of Life, Love, and Loss, a story of his triplets born at 24 weeks. He received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Fox Business News. He has spoken worldwide, including at South Summit, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, MIT, Columbia, and NYU.

Robin Kanarek

Recipient – Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters

Robin Kanarek is president of the Kanarek Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization founded with her husband, Joseph, in 2006. The foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for those affected by cancer and other life-threatening conditions through the promotion and integration of palliative care into all aspects of health care. Through innovative and collaborative projects at the Fairfield University School of Nursing in Fairfield, Conn.; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City; and the George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health, KFF focuses on educating the public and health care professionals to the many benefits of early integration of palliative care.

The catalyst for creating KFF was the loss of Robin and Joseph’s 15-year-old son, David, in 2000, following a five-year battle with cancer. In hindsight, the Kanareks realized that his care lacked emotional, psychological, and spiritual support. Palliative care did not become a recognized medical subspecialty until 2006, and the Kanareks believe that its integration into David’s care would have been immensely beneficial.

Mrs. Kanarek recently learned about spiritual distress at a conference at which Dr. Christina Puchalski spoke. Mrs. Kanarek realized that her son suffered from this phenomenon when he was in strict isolation following a stem cell transplant. It was a revelation to hear that there was a term for what David agonized through, albeit 20 years after his passing. Following the conference, Mrs. Kanarek contacted Dr. Puchalski and learned that spiritual distress, a nursing diagnosis, had not been addressed or researched in the pediatric field. KFF soon committed to rectifying this deficiency.

A graduate of Fairfield University School of Nursing, Mrs. Kanarek has served on its board of trustees and is chair of its Nursing Advisory Board and the Kanarek Center for Palliative Nursing Education. She also served on the board of trustees of Greenwich Hospital (Greenwich, Conn.), a Yale New Haven Health affiliate, and is currently serving on the board of trustees of Connecticut Hospice in Branford, Conn. KFF has recently funded the development of a Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition in the state of Connecticut, working with the chair, Eileen O’Shea, DNP, APRN, PCNS-BC, CHPPN, the director of the Kanarek Center for Palliative Care Nursing Education at Fairfield University Egan School of Nursing.

Robin Kanarek has presented at several international health conferences, universities, and medical institutions. She has been published in several peer-reviewed journals, including The American Journal of Nursing, the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, the Journal of Palliative and Supportive Care, and the Journal of Palliative Medicine. This year, she published a book by Johns Hopkins University Press; Living Well with a Serious Illness: A Guide to Palliative Care for Mind, Body, and Spirit is her first book and honors David’s short but remarkable life.


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