Heidi Grant Murphy, Western Washington University alumna and renowned opera singer, received Western’s honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts and sung the national anthem and Western's Alma Mater at Western’s summer commencement Aug. 18 in Carver Gym.
Deborah Atwood, executive director of AGree: Transforming Food and Agriculture Policy, gave the commencement address. Atwood is an alumna of Huxley College of the Environment and Western’s Campus School.
Graduating senior Amanjeet Sahota, a Political Science major from Bellingham, gave the student commencement address.
Approximately 450 undergraduates and about 75 master’s candidates received degrees this quarter.
The ceremony included the presentation of an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree to Heidi Grant Murphy. Murphy was planning to be a high school music teacher and volleyball coach in her hometown of Bellingham before she came to Western, where her professors suggested she major in Vocal Performance. While in graduate school she was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and was offered a spot in the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. After 20 years at the Met as well as experiences with other opera companies such as the Netherlands Opera, Frankfurt Opera and Opera National de Paris, Murphy has revisited her goal to be a teacher. She is now an adjunct professor of practice at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.
The ceremony’s main speaker, Deborah Atwood, can also call Bellingham her hometown. She is the daughter of the late State Sen. R. Frank Atwood Jr., who was a strong advocate for Western. At the Washington, D.C.-based AGree, Atwood leads a multidisciplinary effort to develop policies relating to global food security, bringing together leaders from throughout the food and agriculture supply chain from the farmers to the consumers. She has more than 30 years of experience in policy and legislative matters in food, agriculture, the environment and research. Before joining AGree, she was an associate for corporate affairs and public policy at Mars, Inc. She also has served in senior positions with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, the National Pork Producers Council and others. Currently she is on the board of ACDI-VOCA a nonprofit organization dedicated to agriculture development particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The student commencement speaker, Amanjeet Sahota, graduated this summer with a degree in Political Science and will attend Johns Hopkins University’s School of Nursing in the fall. Sahota says her diverse experiences in academics and extracurricular activities will help her become a well-rounded health-care professional. Sahota also participated enthusiastically in extracurricular activities at Western, such as mentoring prospective students, helping Kiwanis International with their fundraising efforts, attending the Munro Seminar and others.
After commencement, graduates made their way through Red Square to Memory Walk in front of Old Main, where they placed memorabilia in a time capsule to be buried under a stone paver with their graduation year on it, not to be opened for 100 years.