Rhode Island | United States

The legendary Rhode Island School of Design (RSID), ranked #1 in Business Insider’s survey of The World’s 25 Best Design Schools, recently completed its 135th Commencement ceremony by awarding degrees to 463 undergraduates and 208 graduate students. The ceremony was special for every student receiving the degree and it added more to the celebration when RISD presented two honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees to visionaries in contemporary culture. Photographer Annie Leibovitz and artist Cai Guo-Qiang each accepted an Honorary Degree at the ceremony. RISD graduate David Hanson was honored with the 2018 Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement The commencement 2018 took place at the Rhode Island Convention Centre in downtown Providence.

Hanson Robotics founder and RISD alumnus David Hanson 96 FAV has built a worldwide reputation for creating the world’s most humanlike, empathetic robots, endowed with remarkable expressiveness, aesthetics and interactivity.



With a BFA in Film/Animation/Video from RISD and a PhD in interactive arts and engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas, Hanson publishes regularly in numerous popular media outlets including The New York Times, Popular Science, Scientific American, the BBC and CNN. Dubbed a “genius” by both PC Magazine and WIRED, he has earned awards from NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Cooper Hewitt, among many others.

On behalf of Hanson, Sophia delivered the keynote address urging students “to bring to the world a different kind of dream—a dream that wakes people up to their better selves.”

Annie Leibovitz Receives Honorary Degree
Sophia and President Rosanne Somerson.

The Honorary degree was received by Annie Leibovitz for producing a large and distinguished body of work that encompasses some of the most well-known portraits of their time. Her first step toward this journey was as a photojournalist for Rolling Stone in 1970, while she was still a student. It is said that if you know what your dreams are, nothing can stop you from living them and Annie proved it by achieving every milestone. By the time she joined the staff of the revived Vanity Fair in 1983, she had established herself as the foremost rock music photographer and an astute documentarian of the social landscape, she had already gained popularity for her iconic work. She just did not stop here at Vanity Fair. Later at Vogue, her work with actors, directors, writers, musicians, athletes and political and business figures—as well as her fashion photographs—expanded her collective portrait of contemporary life.

Annie Leibovitz Receives Honorary Degree
Artist Cai Guo-Qiang, Sophia, President Rosanne Somerson and Photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Leibovitz has published several books and has exhibited widely. She is a Commandeur in the French government’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and has been designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.

With such talented Alumni contributing commendable work in every field RSID is Known as the leading college of art and design in the United States.

Images:  Scott Indermaur

Ruhi Raj

Feature Writer

Originally from the Jharkhand district in India, Ruhi Raj worked in engineering in Jammu and Kashmir and shortly after opted for journalism. She completed her PG Diploma in Hindi journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in New Delhi. Ruhi currently serves as a Feature Writer at Salon Prive Magazine

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