NEW PALTZ — John Turturro, award-winning actor, screenwriter and director will deliver the commencement address at the State University of New York at New Paltz on the twentieth anniversary of his graduation from the college. Turturro will also be awarded the honorary doctorate of fine arts.
Also receiving an honorary degree at the May 23 graduation ceremonies will be Dolores Huerta, vice president for the California AFL-CIO and a founding member (along with Cesar Chavez) and secretary-treasurer of the United Farm Workers. The ceremony will begin at 11:00 a.m. on the Old Main Quadrangle.
Turturro has portrayed a wide range of characters in more than 40 theatre and film roles, among them Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski (directed by Joel and Ethan Coen) , Sid Lidz in Unstrung Heroes (directed by Diane Keaton) , Herbie Stempel in Quiz Show (directed by Robert Redford), Paulie Carbone in Jungle Fever (directed by Spike Lee), Moe Flatbush in Mo’ Better Blues (directed by Spike Lee) and Bernie in Miller’s Crossing (Joel and Ethan Coen).
He has twice been recognized at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1991, Turturro was presented with the best actor award for his lead performance in Barton Fink(directed by Joel and Ethan Coen), and the following year, he received the Camera d’Or award for best film, Mac, by a first-time director. Turturro also portrayed Niccolo (Mac) Vitelli in Mac.
In 1994, Turturro received the Screen Actors Guild Award and was a nominee for the Golden Globe award for his performance in Quiz Show. Among the other honors accorded the actor are the 1992 Sundance Film Festival Piper Heidseick Award and the 1991 Gotham IFP Award, both given for excellence in his body of work, as well as the David Di Donatello Award, in 1991, for his performance in Barton Fink.
Last fall, Turturro appeared Off-Broadway in the Classic Stage Company production of Waiting for Godot, and this spring he completed Company Man in New York City, a film which also features Sigourney Weaver and Woody Allen.
A prominent figure in the civil rights movement and a folk hero in the Mexican- American community, Huerta has played many key roles in the United Farm Workers (UFW), including negotiating the first collective bargaining agreement for farmworkers, heading the UFW’s national grape boycott, and directing the UFW’s political and lobbying efforts.
She was the founding member of the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization which combated segregation and police brutality, led voter registration drives, pushed for improved public services and fought to enact new laws that provided state disability insurance to farm workers and old age pensions for non-citizens.
In addition to her union activities, Huerta has campaigned for the election of women to public office in California and is a current member on the boards of the Feminist Majority, the California Labor Federation, and the National Farm Workers Service Center. She is also vice president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and Vice President for the California AFL-CIO.
In 1993, Huerta was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, received the ACLU Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award and was honored with the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award.
Huerta will be awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the State University of New York.