Ithaca College Commencement Speakers Announced

By Dave Maley, April 1, 2021
Distinguished guests to be honored at May 23 event.

Emmy and Golden Globe nominated television creator, showrunner, and executive producer Liz Tigelaar, a 1998 graduate of Ithaca College, has accepted an invitation to deliver the main address at the college’s 126th Commencement on Sunday, May 23.

As previously announced, Ithaca College plans to hold a creative in-person Commencement for members of the Class of 2021, in alignment with New York State guidelines for large gatherings and the college’s commitment to the health and well-being of all members of the IC community.

“We are so proud that Liz has agreed to inform and inspire our graduates, who have gone through such an unprecedented year of challenge and great change. Both she and our other honored guests personify the ideals of the college’s mission to educate, engage, and empower through theory, practice, and performance.”

President Shirley M. Collado

Representing the graduates at Commencement will be Senior Class President Ali Kelley, who was selected to serve as the student speaker. The college will also recognize noted economist Raj Chetty and groundbreaking theologian the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas with honorary Doctor of Letters degrees. Eileen Filler-Corn, a 1986 IC graduate who made history a year ago with her election as speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, will receive the Ithaca College Presidential Medal.

“We are so proud that Liz has agreed to inform and inspire our graduates, who have gone through such an unprecedented year of challenge and great change,” said Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado. “Both she and our other honored guests personify the ideals of the college’s mission to educate, engage, and empower through theory, practice, and performance.”

Liz Tigelaar ’98

Liz Tigelaar headshot

Liz Tigelaar ’98. Photo by Ricky Middlesworth

With over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry, Liz Tigelaar was most recently creator, showrunner, and executive producer of the acclaimed Hulu limited series “Little Fires Everywhere.” Starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, and based on the bestselling novel by Celeste Ng, the series received five Emmy nominations—including Outstanding Limited Series—as well as five NAACP Image Award nominations, a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Limited Series, and a WGA Award nomination for Adapted Long Form Series.

Tigelaar studied scriptwriting and politics at Ithaca College, starting her career as an assistant on “Dawson's Creek.” She went on to serve as a writer/producer on such series as NBC’s “American Dreams”; ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Revenge,” “Nashville,” and “Astronaut Wives Club”; and A&E’s “Bates Motel.” She most recently served as showrunner and executive producer on Hulu’s Golden Globe nominated series “Casual.” Prior to that, she created her own series, the critically praised drama “Life Unexpected,” which aired on the CW for two seasons.

Tigelaar was among the IC alums who delivered words of encouragement via video to last year’s graduating class, whose Commencement was held virtually. She has served as a judge for the Golden Doorknob Awards in the Roy H. Park School of Communications, and last fall she participated in a webinar titled “The Hollywood Writers Room” as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Ithaca College Los Angeles program.

Ali Kelley ’21

Ali Kelley in front of the Dillingham Fountains

Ali Kelley '21

In the spirit of inclusivity and of broadening the voices to be represented at this important celebration, all undergraduate seniors were invited to compete to be chosen by the Student Speaker Selection Committee to represent the Class of 2021. Selected to deliver those remarks was Ali Kelley, a School of Business student majoring in business administration with a concentration in management, and minoring in integrated marketing communications, communication management and design, and live event design and management.

In addition to serving as Senior Class president, Kelley has held leadership roles with the Student Governance Council and has been a student representative on the Institutional Effectiveness and Budget Committee, Dean’s Host for the School of Business, Student Leadership Consultant in the Office of Student Engagement, and member of Students Today Alumni Tomorrow and Colleges Against Cancer.

Among other honors, Kelley has received the Peggy Ryan Williams Award for Academic and Community Leadership. She not only also spoke at the college’s December Graduation Celebration, she helped plan it for her course in Applied Event Management.

Based on nominations by Ithaca College’s Honorary Degree Committee and Faculty Governance Council, Chetty and Douglas are being recognized with honorary degrees as leaders who use their talents, expertise, and platforms to give voice to important issues and demonstrate the values that the college seeks to exemplify.

Raj Chetty

Raj Chetty professional headshot

Raj Chetty

A leading scholar and teacher who has inspired policymakers and social scientists, Raj Chetty is the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He has been a pioneer in the use of large-scale data sets to study questions of economic opportunity and inequality and the use of data to influence policy. He serves as the director of the Opportunity Insights group, a nonpartisan research and policy institute whose central mission is to develop scalable policy solutions that empower families throughout the United States to rise out of poverty and achieve better life outcomes.

Chetty earned both his BA and PhD degrees in economics from Harvard. Prior to joining the university as one of its youngest-ever tenured faculty members, he taught at the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford.

The author of research papers on topics ranging from the effects of tax cuts on corporate behavior to intergenerational mobility to factors that influence life expectancy, Chetty has been honored with a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, a Carnegie Foundation Great Immigrants Award, and the John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association, which called him “arguably the best applied microeconomist of his generation.”

Kelly Brown Douglas

Kelly Brown Douglas professional headshot

Kelly Brown Douglas. Photo by Ron Hester

The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union and the Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology at the Union Theological Seminary. She also serves as the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral and Theologian in Residence at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City.

Among the first Black women to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, Douglas is considered a leader in the field of womanist theology, racial reconciliation, and sexuality and the Black church. Through her writing, preaching, teaching, and work in the public square, Douglas has been a tireless advocate for justice and dignity for every human being, particularly those who are marginalized because of their race, gender, or sexuality. In 2019, she spoke at Ithaca College as part of the Peggy Ryan Williams Difficult Dialogues Symposium.

Douglas’ books include “Sexuality in the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective,” “Black Bodies and the Black Church: A Blues Slant,” and “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God,” inspired by Trayvon Martin’s death. and the forthcoming “Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter.”

She served a parish in Washington, D.C., for over 20 years, and prior to joining the Episcopal Divinity School at Union in 2017, she taught at Goucher College, Howard University School of Divinity, and Edward Waters College. 

Eileen Filler-Corn ’86

Eileen Filler-Corn professional headshot

Eileen Filler-Corn ’86

The Ithaca College Presidential Medal honors significant contributions that better the Ithaca College community and our world. Speaker of the House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn, the first woman in the 402-year history of Virginia’s legislature to hold the position, rose to this role after representing the 41st House District for a decade, making her the fastest person to ascend to the post.

Filler-Corn has devoted her career to public service. She was an original organizer of the Million Mom March, acting as the vice president and chair of the Northern Virginia chapter in 2001. Prior to her election to the House, she served in the administrations of Virginia governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. She has spent her time in the legislature as a listener and problem solver, delivering results that move her community forward and advocating for everyone equally regardless of background, circumstance, or ideology. She has introduced, championed, and passed legislation that has made Virginia a safer, stronger, and more equal Commonwealth.

A politics major at Ithaca College, Filler-Corn founded the College Democrats and organized a visit to Ithaca by Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first woman nominated for national office by a major party when she served as Walter Mondale’s vice-presidential running mate in 1984. After graduating in 1986, Filler-Corn went on to receive her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law.

Streaming and registration

Commencement will be streamed for live viewing by families and supporters of graduates and for those graduates who do not wish to attend in person. No in-person guests will be allowed because of crowd size restrictions.

Students will receive an email from to register an account with Marching Order, the college’s Commencement ceremony partner. It is imperative that an RSVP be provided by Wednesday, April 14, at 11:59 p.m. Registering is the only way that students will be able to fully participate in Commencement, either in person or virtually. The registration link is unique to each student, so it should not be forwarded. Anyone who does not receive the email by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 2, should email

Visit the Commencement Website

For more information on the celebration of the Class of 2021, visit