Syracuse University Trustee Wendy Cohen and Native American recording artist Joanne Shenandoah-Tekalihwakhwa to receive honorary degrees at 2002 SU/ESF Commencement
Syracuse University Trustee Wendy Cohen and Native American recording artist Joanne Shenandoah-Tekalihwakhwa to receive honorary degrees at 2002 SU/ESF CommencementApril 08, 2002Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Syracuse University Trustee Wendy H. Cohen of Plantation, Fla., and critically acclaimed Native American recording artist Joanne Shenandoah-Tekalihwakhwa of Oneida, N.Y., will receive Syracuse University honorary degrees at the 148th Commencement exercises on May 12 in the Carrier Dome. Cohen will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters, and Shenandoah will receive an honorary doctorate of music.
“I’m proud to recognize these two outstanding individuals with 2002 honorary degrees,” says Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw. “Both of these women reinforce through their work Syracuse University’s core values of caring and service to others. They embody the spirit of our community.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudoph W. Giuliani, who was named the “2001 Man of the Year” by Time Magazine, will deliver the Commencement address to the Class of 2002. Giuliani received an honorary doctorate of law degree from SU’s College of Law in 1989.
Wendy H. Cohen
Wendy H. Cohen sets the example for future graduates by not only giving back, but also giving of herself. Since graduating in 1970 with a degree in speech and dramatic arts, Cohen has remained deeply involved with the Syracuse University community as an alumna and longtime trustee, and has been an active voice for students with her participation in numerous campus organizations.
In addition to her dedicated service as University trustee, Cohen serves as chairperson of the Student Affairs Committee and is on the advisory boards of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the subcommittee of Greek Life, and the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center. For nine years, she served as a member, committee chair and vice president of the Syracuse University Alumni Board of Directors, and from 1991 to 2000, served on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, playing an active part in the recent $300 million-dollar Commitment to Learning fundraising campaign.
“It’s quite an honor to be recognized by the University with this degree,” says Cohen. “People are so often honored for achievement within their field of work, which is very visible. What I do is much more behind the scenes, so it’s particularly special to be recognized for my work not only at Syracuse University, but other places.”
Cohen is the former president of Rowen Ventures Ltd., a developer of residential properties in Long Island. Prior to that, she worked in public relations and advertising as a media specialist in New York City. She is currently a travel consultant with Professional Vacations Inc. in Davie, Fla.
Beyond her service to Syracuse University and when not on one of her frequent trips to campus, Cohen serves on the executive board of the Soref Jewish Community Center in southern Florida, and serves on the Foundation Board of the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y.
While much of her day centers on her philanthropic activity, she enjoys spending the rest of her time with family and building on her art education as a gifted potter. She is a member of the Broward Community College Potter’s Guild near her hometown, and director of the Broward Community College Foundation board.
“I hope that students learn the importance of giving back, not only financially, but giving of themselves. I think this is a generation that is doing more of that, and if I can be the example, that’s great,” says Cohen.
Cohen and her husband, Edward, president of HELPCO Financial Services, have four daughters and one granddaughter.
Cohen’s daughter, Heather, will graduate this May with a degree in public relations from the Newhouse School. She carries on the Syracuse University family tradition that began with Cohen’s mother, Ann Goldstein ’48.
Her tribal name translates to “she sings.” And when she does, Grammy-nominated Native American singer, songwriter and composer Joanne Shenandoah-Tekalihwakhwa (de-ga?lee??hwa gwah) fills the University community with a cultural spirit and uplifting messages of peace and hope.
Shenandoah is a critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning Native American composer, vocalist and performer. Her original compositions combine the ancient songs of her Iroquois tribal heritage with a blend of traditional and contemporary instrumentation.
Shenandoah is a national and local vocal treasure, who over the years has lent spiritual harmony to several University occasions. As a Wolf Clan member of the local Iroquois Confederacy-Oneida Nation, her strong connection to the University stems from the school’s long history with the aboriginal people and its role in preserving local tribal heritage.
“It is indeed an honor to receive this degree in music from Syracuse University,” says Shenandoah. “This is my first honorary degree, an award which, given the historical significance of this sacred land, has exceptional meaning to me, my family, my clan and for all Haudenosaunee (Iroquois).”
Last fall, Shenandoah was on-hand and performed at the Maxwell School’s announcement of their new minor in Native American studies, developed in response to growing interest in local Iroquois culture and Native American issues.
“We have had many Iroquois people attend Syracuse University and have used the knowledge they have acquired for the benefit of their respective communities. I have also worked with several University professors who have all contributed to my development as an artist while expanding my knowledge of the world.”
Last year, her album “Peacemaker’s Journey” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Native American Music Album category. Among her many music awards are the 1998 and 1999 Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year, and 1999 NAMMY for Best Traditional Album.
Her 11th and most recent album, “Eagle Cries,” is the most traditional folk rock album she has produced. As a departure from her established instrumentation– with its eclectic rock mix of poetic Native American lyrics– “Eagle Cries” has been a warmly welcomed addition to her repertoire with favorable reviews and acclaims from music critics.
Shenandoah has appeared on stage at the White House, Woodstock ’94, Earth Day on the Mall, the Special Olympics, and other national venues across the nation. She performed at three most recent Presidential Inaugurals and at a private event for First Lady Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore.
At the University’s candlelight vigil following the September 11th terrorist attacks, her performance of “Feather from Heaven” united a mourning community and inspired new strength and hope through messages of peace.
She will perform at the 2002 Commencement exercises, honoring through her soulful music a class that she hopes will lend their talents to the causes of a new world much different than the one when they signed up for classes in the fall.
“The social reality for this year’s class is one of apprehension, alertness and determination,” says Shenandoah. “Yet we should not submit to fear, but use our respective talents to promote peace, remove the sting of oppression and come to our ecological common senses. We have a moral obligation to make sure our grandchildren have clean air, pure waters and an equal opportunity for the free expression of their natural abilities and responsibilities.”