Trinity College alumnus Raja Changez Sultan, an internationally renowned painter and poet from Pakistan, will be the featured speaker at Trinity’s 196th Commencement on Sunday, May 22.
Sultan graduated from Trinity in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He then earned two master’s degrees from Columbia University before becoming one of Pakistan’s most prolific creatives, with a career in the arts spanning more than 50 years.
After completing his childhood education in Pakistan and England, Sultan arrived on the Trinity campus, where he penned his first poem, “The Mirror.” The day after composing the poem, Sultan sat in the cafeteria with Trinity English Professor Hugh Ogden, who read his poem and offered him the encouraging instruction to keep writing. Taking his advice, Sultan has forged an intellectual journey throughout which his work as both a writer and a painter has been celebrated internationally.
“It’s our privilege to welcome all of our well-accomplished honorands back to Trinity. We are so very proud of each of them,” said Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney. “I’m also grateful and excited to have Raja Changez Sultan address our Commencement participants. Through the power of his work, he has championed an entire generation to pursue their love for the arts, most notably in his home country of Pakistan, and in the process has helped shape a more just society. His voice, alongside all of our distinguished honorands, will help make this year’s Commencement a truly special occasion.”
Inspired by his countless works of poetry, Sultan’s paintings have been exhibited extensively in Austria, England, Switzerland, Oman, and Pakistan. While he has continued to write and paint under the ideals of equity and inclusion, his career has included service to the United Nations and the World Health Organization before serving in senior-level positions for the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. He was then appointed director general for the Pakistan National Council of the Arts in Islamabad, advancing the work of artists, thinkers, writers, and the visual and performing arts, not allowing any challenge to hinder his promotion and support of the arts.
Sultan will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree in recognition of his distinguished career and for his devotion to a more just society for his home country and for the world.
Honorary degrees also will be presented to Lloyd Alexander Lewis Jr., the first African American from Alexandria, Virginia, to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, and Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh, the first female chair of the Trinity College Board of Trustees.
Biographical information about Lewis and Thornburgh is below.
Lloyd Alexander Lewis Jr., Trinity College Class of 1969
(to be awarded the degree of doctor of divinity, honoris causa)
Recognized as one of our country’s leading religious minds, Lewis has exercised his calling as a preacher, a teacher, a pastor, and a distinguished scholar for more than 50 years.
Lewis graduated from Trinity College in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in classics. In 1985, he earned a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Yale University.
After being ordained a deacon and priest in the Episcopal Church, Lewis served parishes in Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut; Brooklyn and Garden City, New York; and Washington, D.C. Six years later, he joined the VTS faculty as an assistant, then associate, professor of New Testament and taught until 1991. For the next nine years, he served as dean of the George Mercer Jr. Memorial School of Theology and as bishop’s deputy for education in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. In 2000, Lewis returned to VTS and subsequently was named the Molly Laird Downs Professor in New Testament, a position he held until his 2012 retirement.
He has proudly represented the Episcopal Church as a member of the Programme for the Theological Education of the World Council of Churches in Prague, Czech Republic, and has served as a member of the General Board of Examining Chaplains of the Episcopal Church, which conducts, administers, and evaluates the national General Ordination Examination.
Lewis is a member of the Alexandria [Virginia] African-American Hall of Fame.
Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh, Trinity College Class of 1980
(to be awarded the degree of doctor of humane letters, honoris causa)
A longtime guardian and stalwart supporter of Trinity College, Thornburgh spent 17 years as a dedicated member of Trinity’s Board of Trustees, highlighted by serving as the chair of the Presidential Search Committee that brought the first female president to the college in 2014, the same year she would become chair of the board.
Thornburgh earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Trinity in 1980, followed by an M.B.A. from Columbia University.
In addition to her board membership, she has devotedly served the college as a founder of the newly created Marjorie Butcher Circle, a leadership philanthropy group of alumnae; as co-chair of the Charter Committee for Building Community; as a tri-chair of the college’s capital campaign to raise $350 million; and as a member of the Board of Fellows. She also was one of the creators of and now serves as a member of the Founders Council of the Women’s Leadership Council and is a member of the Elms Society.
In 2010, she became the first alumna to be awarded The Eigenbrodt Cup, one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed upon a Trinity graduate, given in recognition of her prominence and her unusual and significant service to Trinity. In 2013, in celebration of her cumulative lifetime giving, she and her husband, Richard E. Thornburgh, were included on Trinity’s Wall of Honor, which recognizes those whose philanthropy has had a profound impact at the college. In 2020, Thornburgh was named one of Trinity’s 50 for the Next 50, which—in celebration of 50 years of coeducation at the college—honored 50 women who will have a lasting impact on the next 50 years at Trinity.
In addition to her service to Trinity College, Thornburgh was the former chair of the board for Convent of the Sacred Heart, a pre-K–12 independent school for girls in New York City. She is the current board chair, as well as former board secretary and former advancement committee head, of The Lord’s Place, an organization committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness in Southeastern Florida.
For more information on Commencement Weekend, including a full schedule of events, click here.