Actor Jay O. Sanders Receives Distinguished Alumni Award From Purchase College

Actor Jay O. Sanders Receives Distinguished Alumni Award From Purchase CollegePurchase College, SUNY held its 46th annual commencement ceremony on Friday, May 18, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY.

Degrees were conferred upon nearly 1,100 graduating scholars representing dozens of majors and several countries. The graduates were joined by thousands of family members, friends, college faculty, and staff members who came together to celebrate their achievements. The day also featured the lively music of Purchase faculty member Joe Ferry and the Big Ska Band, creating a festive experience in keeping with the school's unique culture.

As a center for creative growth and academic excellence, Purchase marks the annual event by honoring dynamic leaders from various fields.

This year, acclaimed actor Jay O. Sanders '76 and New York State Assemblywoman Latrice Walker '01 received the President's Award for Distinguished Alumni.

Alex Lally, a Design Technology major and student athlete from Sunnyvale, Texas, offered remarks on behalf of the senior class.

Purchase College President Thomas J. Schwarz said, "Though many look at graduation as an end, the word commencement itself refers to a beginning. I have no doubt that this year's graduating class will continue in the Purchase tradition of Thinking Wide Open as they forge new pathways and uphold the values they have learned at Purchase, much like the distinguished alumni we are honoring this year. "

About the Distinguished Alumni

Jay O. Sanders graduated from Horace Greeley High School in 1971 and earned a BFA in Theatre Arts from Purchase College in 1976. Cast in both plays at Shakespeare in the Park his first summer out of school, Sanders has since become one of the most familiar faces at Central Park's Delacorte Theater. He went on to work in the acting companies of the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) in San Francisco, before returning to New York where he was cast in the Off-Broadway NY Premiere of Sam Shepard's Buried Child (which won the Pulitzer Prize during the run), his first feature film Starting Over with Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh, and Candace Bergen, and his Broadway debut, Michael Weller's Loose Ends at the Circle in the Square.

At The Public Theater, where he has been a regular presence for over 40 years, he played George W. Bush in David Hare's Stuff Happens, the title role in Titus Andronicus, and a long list of leading roles in their Shakespeare in the Park productions. Sanders also recently returned from a 2017 world tour out of the Public of Richard Nelson's trilogy The Gabriel Family; Election Year in the Life of One Family with his wife, Maryann Plunkett. Together, they also appeared in Nelson's four Apple Family Plays, which toured Europe to great acclaim in 2015 and have performed across the country with Bryan Doerries' Theater of War. This past winter, Sanders appeared at San Diego's Old Globe Theater in the title role of a highly acclaimed production of Uncle Vanya, prompting the drama critic of the L.A. Times, Charles McNulty, to proclaim him "an unsung National Treasure." Sanders has also done extensive work on film (including JFK, The Day After Tomorrow, Tumbleweeds, Edge of Darkness, and Angels in the Outfield), and television (Sneaky Pete, True Detective, Blindspot, Law&Order;C.I., and Roseanne, for example). Audiofile Magazine designated Sanders one of their Golden Voicesfor the consistently high quality of his extensive narration work in audiobooks. Regularly heard on commercials, he is one of the most prominent documentary narrators for PBS, including NOVA, Nature, Wide Angle, and Secrets of the Dead.

As a writer, his play, Unexplored Interior, which explores the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, was the center of a 2014 international livestream between New York City's Museum of Jewish Heritage and Rwanda's Kigali Genocide Memorial. It was seen online in 10 different countries as part of the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide. In 2015, it was chosen to be the inaugural production of Washington D.C.'s new Mosaic Theater. Sanders' new book, A World In Common, made up of his diaries, photos, and reflections from the Gabriels world tour, will be published soon.

He has returned to Purchase College annually for over 20 years to give Master Classes to the Drama Students that explore how to make a life as an artist.

Latrice Monique Walker received a BA in Sociology and Political Science as a member of the Purchase College class of 2001. She went on to earn a JD from Pace University in 2006 and was admitted to the New York Bar Association in 2007. A native New Yorker committed to helping her community of Brownsville in Brooklyn, she started a career in government as Counsel to congresswoman Yvette Clarke soon after graduating from law school. In her capacity as Counsel, she gained first-hand experience in community planning and development.

She was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2014. The experiences she had growing up in Prospect Plaza, witnessing the displacement of residents including her mother and the impact it had on her community, have shaped her focus as a legislator on fair housing, economic development, and crime victims and their families.

Assemblywoman Walker is well known for devoting her energies to her constituents, supporting affordable housing, protecting voting rights, and defending the rights of tenants and young minorities unable to advocate for themselves. Assemblywoman Walker is the Chair of the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc. and serves on the executive committee of the Black, Puerto-Rican, Hispanic, Asian Caucus. In 2018 she became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Kappa Zeta Chapter.

Assemblywoman Walker's level of commitment is evident in her personal life as a founding member of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Coalition of Young Professionals as well the activities of the Wayside Baptist Church.

A proud alumna of the Educational Opportunity Program at Purchase, Assemblywoman Walker has chosen to give back to this program as a mentor and role model, inspiring dozens of students over the past several years.

About Purchase College, SUNY

Purchase College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) network of 64 universities and colleges, was founded in 1967 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. His aspiration for Purchase was to create a dynamic campus that combined conservatory training in the visual and performing arts with programs in the liberal arts and sciences, in order to inspire an appreciation for both intellectual and artistic talents in all students. Today, Purchase College-SUNY is a community of students, faculty, and friends where open-minded engagement with the creative process leads to a lifetime of intellectual growth and professional opportunity. For more information about the College, visit

Related Articles View More Central New York Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You

Before you go...

Never Miss a Story
Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram instagram