Christopher Jackson, whose electrifying performance as George Washington in the mega-hit Broadway musical Hamilton has earned him a Tony nomination and a Grammy Award, will participate in Washington College’s 233rd commencement. Jackson will join commencement speaker David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, and bestselling author and historian Joseph Ellis, in congratulating the College’s graduating seniors on May 21.
Jackson will confer the College’s highest award—the George Washington Medal—to the graduating senior who shows “the greatest promise of understanding and realizing in life and work the ideals of a liberal education.” Jackson himself will also receive the College’s Award for Excellence, which in the past has been presented to cultural luminaries including artists Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, columnist Art Buchwald, documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim, novelist James Michener, and ballerina Martine van Hamel.
Jackson, who made his Broadway debut in another smash hit, 1997’s The Lion King, is an actor, composer, vocalist, musician, and lyricist. Among his Broadway credits are In the Heights, After Midnight, The Bronx Bombers, Memphis, and Holler If Ya Hear Me. Off Broadway includes The Jammer (Atlantic Theater Co.), Lonely, I’m Not (Second Stage), In the Heights (37 Arts), and Cotton Club Parade (ENCORES at City Center). In film and TV, he will soon be starring in CBS’s new show Bull, and he has appeared in Freestyle Love Supreme, Person of Interest, A Gifted Man, Fringe, Gossip Girl, Tracers, The Good Wife, and Afterlife.
He was also the composer/songwriter for Sesame Street and co-music supervisor and writer for The Electric Company (PBS). Among his awards is a Grammy for Hamilton as Best Musical Theater Album, and an Emmy in 2011 for his song with Will.I.Am, “What I Am,” for Sesame Street. In 2010 he released his first solo album titled, “In The Name of Love” and is currently working on his second album.
Rubenstein, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws, grew up in Baltimore as the son of a postal worker and homemaker, and went on to a law career that led him to the highest echelons of government and business. A graduate of Duke University and University of Chicago Law School, he began his career in private law practice, and served in senior positions in the U.S. Senate and Carter Administration. In 1987, he co-founded Carlyle, which has grown into a firm managing approximately $200 billion from 40 offices around the world.
Ellis, one of the nation’s leading scholars of American history, will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters. The author of nine books, Ellis won the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers: the Revolutionary Generation and won the National Book Award for American Sphinx, a biography of Thomas Jefferson. His in-depth chronicle of the life of our first president, His Excellency: George Washington, was a New York Times bestseller.
The day before commencement, on Friday, May 20, Rubenstein and Ellis will team up for a symposium in Decker Theatre on the role of philanthropy today and in American history. Rubenstein will open the symposium with remarks entitled “Patriotic Philanthropy.”
Following Rubenstein’s remarks, Ellis will lead a Q&A session. The event mirrors a lively conversation the duo enjoyed during last year’s National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., when Rubenstein guided questions about Ellis’ latest book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789.
The symposium will begin Friday, May 20, at 4 p.m. in Decker Theatre at Washington College’s Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts. It is free and open to the public. Commencement, held on the campus lawn, begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday May 21.