Actor and producer Bill Duke is scheduled to deliver the Widener University commencement address and receive an honorary doctorate of public service on May 12.
The ceremony is set to begin at 9:45 a.m. with nearly 800 students scheduled to graduate.
Duke is a familiar face from the 1976 film “Car Wash” and standing alongside Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard.” He appeared in “X-Men” and has also directed a number of films including “A Rage in Harlem” and “Sister Act II.”
“Bill Duke has not only been an outstanding leader in the motion picture industry, he has also chosen to give back to the community in the spirit of civic engagement,” said Widener University President James T. Harris III. “His leadership and community service are prime examples of the qualities that we hope to instill in Widener students, and we are very fortunate to have him as our commencement speaker.”
This will be the second time Duke will be on Widener’s campus.
In February, Duke premiered his latest documentary called “Dark Girls” to local residents.
The documentary’s premise spotlights the emotional arena in which women of a “darker hue” live. In the documentary, dark-skinned Black American women are covered with a focus trained tightly upon women struggling for upward mobility in the workplace of corporate America.
“In the late ’60s a famous psychological study was done in which a young Black girl was presented with a set of dolls,” Duke said. “Every time she was asked to point to the one that wasn’t pretty, not smart, etc. — she pointed to the Black doll that looked just like her. In her mind, she was already indoctrinated. To watch her do that was heartbreaking and infuriating. CNN did the test again recently — decades later — with little progress. As the filmmakers behind ‘Dark Girls,’ our goal is to take that little girl’s finger off that doll.”
Duke’s résumé and list of accomplishments is extensive.
He recently received a Lifetime Achievement Tribute from the Directors Guild of America, joining the ranks of directors Stephen Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock and Clint Eastwood.
Duke is also a humanitarian and activist who serves on the board of trustees of Educating Young Minds, an after school program that helps inner city youth excel in school and life. He is also involved with the United Nations UNAIDS mission to eliminate AIDS globally.
The founder and chief executive officer of Duke Media, formerly Yagya Productions, Duke has been producing film and television for more than 30 years. Duke Media is recognized as a world-wide leader in leveraging media via the new film industry paradigm of the Internet.
Duke formerly served on the board of trustees at the American Film Institute. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also appointed him to the California State Film Commission Board. Duke served as the Time Warner Endowed Chair in the Department of Radio Television and Film at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He was also appointed to the National Endowment of the Humanities by President Bill Clinton.
In regards to the skin issue, Duke noted it’s a discussion that’s needed.
“The only way I thought to address this issue is to do my own personal study, which is the documentary,” he said. “It addresses an issue that people are afraid to talk about. Hopefully, the documentary will not only open up a dialogue among African Americans, but I’m hoping it will change the way some women look at themselves.”