Two Pittsburgh natives—one a respected, innovative community leader in the arts, and the other a renowned American writer whose works are often set in his hometown—will be awarded honorary degrees during the spring Commencement ceremony.
Bill Strickland, president and chief executive officer of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, and author John Edgar Wideman will receive their degrees at Duquesne’s Commencement on Friday, May 12, at 2 p.m. in the A.J. Palumbo Center.
Strickland leads the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) and the Bidwell Training Center (both Manchester Bidwell Corporation subsidiaries) as well as the National Center for Arts and Technology in Pittsburgh. The MCG, created by Strickland initially as an after-school arts program, is a Manchester neighborhood institution that serves both as a jazz performance and recording center, and an organization that utilizes the arts to inspire inner-city kids. The Bidwell Training Center serves as the adult career-training arm of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, offering job preparation in everything from culinary arts to horticulture technology to medical claims processing.
Today, the Manchester Bidwell Corporation serves as a national model for education, culture and hope. In 2012, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett selected Strickland to serve on the Task Force for Child Protection. President Barack Obama invited him to serve on the White House Council for Community Solutions in 2010. In addition, Strickland chaired the Expansion Arts Panel of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and a six-year presidential appointment as an NEA council member.
Wideman is an award-winning author of numerous books, including Hurry Home and Two Cities. Sent for You Yesterday and Philadelphia Fire both earned him the International PEN/Faulkner Award, marking the first time an author received this honor twice. His book The Cattle Killing won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction, and his short story Weight received the O. Henry Award. Following the publication of the Homewood trilogy (comprised of Damballah, Hiding Place and Sent for You Yesterday), Wideman was proclaimed as “one of America’s premier writers of fiction” by The New York Times.
As an educator, Wideman has taught at the University of Wyoming, the University of Pennsylvania—where he founded and chaired the Department of African-American Studies—the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He currently is an professor emeritus at Brown University. In 2014, Wideman presented on think tanks as tools for social justice at Duquesne’s Gaultier Symposium on Community-Engaged Teaching and Research.