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Greg Neri, the Coretta Scott King Honor-Winning Author of Young Adult Fiction, to Receive Honorary Doctorate at SUNY Cobleskill’s 105th Commencement


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SUNY Cobleskill is thrilled to announce that Coretta Scott King Honor-Winning storyteller, filmmaker, artist, and digital media producer Greg Neri will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts at its 105th Commencement on Saturday, May 13, 2023. Neri will also deliver the event’s keynote address to the College’s more than 435 graduates and their families.

The honorary doctorate is the highest form of recognition offered by the State University of New York to persons of exceptional distinction, in this case, celebrating Neri’s contributions to young adult literature, encouragement of diverse voices in popular storytelling, and efforts toward emphasizing scientific exploration through artistic expression. 

Neri has authored 16 books for young people, ranging from novels and graphic novels to picture books and poetry for grades 3 to 12. His works cover a wide array of topics, from urban fiction to music biographies, but what connects them is that they are all inspired by true life. His 2011 novel “Ghetto Cowboy,” inspired by the real-life inner-city horsemen of Philadelphia and Brooklyn, became the Netflix film “Concrete Cowboy,” starring Idris Elba. His books have been translated into multiple languages in over 25 countries.

“Greg Neri understands the critical need of accessibility in education, in its multitude of forms. His work shows a bravery in tackling serious and complex human issues, while entrusting young readers to derive their own life lessons through the journey of these characters,” said Dr. Marion Terenzio, President of SUNY Cobleskill. “His efforts with the Antarctic Artists and Writers Collective display new approaches to accessing the natural world through the arts and bravery to meet new challenges head-on, furthering readers’ horizons of what is possible in their own lives. Mr. Neri’s own personal and artistic journey will resonate with our Class of 2023 as they go forward into the world, ready to make their own discoveries.” 

In 2017, Neri was awarded the first of two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants that sent him to Antarctica as part of the NSF’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. He currently co-chairs the Antarctic Artists and Writers Collective (AAWC), a group of creators who have traveled to the seventh continent to inspire and educate the public about Antarctica and its scientific exploration through collaborations in art, music, writing, and performance. 

Neri last addressed the SUNY Cobleskill campus community in 2021, through his work with the AAWC. The College hosted Neri as part of the AAWC’s virtual exhibition “Adequate Earth,” which featured works by him and a dozen other founding members of the Collective.

“I have given almost 300 talks to young people about life in Antarctica. As a person of color, I try to share my experiences with urban kids, many of whom lack access to science or nature,” says Neri. “By being an example, I hope they can picture themselves having amazing experiences like this, perhaps as a launching point toward an unexpected future. I never thought I would be a writer or travel to the ice. But I am direct proof that anyone can do it – if you just open yourself up to unexpected opportunities.”

In addition to his writing, Neri is an accomplished filmmaker, directing the independent feature film called “A Weekend with Barbara und Ingrid” and co-directing the documentary “Fa’a Samoa,” which followed a 15-year-old Samoan gang member in Los Angeles. While in college, Neri created the animated short film “Picasso on the Beach” which became a student Academy Award finalist and aired on HBO and Bravo. Neri has since produced over 300 films dealing with issues like teen violence, gangs, and drugs, and taught animation and storytelling to inner-city teens in Los Angeles with the ground-breaking group, Animaction.

SUNY Cobleskill’s 105th Commencement will be held on Saturday, May 13 in a ceremony slated to begin at 11 a.m., outdoors, adjacent to the Neal Robbins Field House. 



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