UWM to award more than 3,500 degrees May 22

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will award more than 3,500 degrees at its 126th commencement on Sunday, May 22, at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, 400 W. Kilbourn Ave.

Degrees will be awarded at two ceremonies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Willem Dafoe, four-time Academy Award nominee and a UWM alum, will be the featured speaker at both the 9 a.m. “black” ceremony and the 2 p.m. “gold” ceremony. Dafoe will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts degree at the afternoon ceremony.

Other honorary degree recipients will be Mary Alfred, professor and interim department head in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University; Judy Murphy, nurse executive and health IT leader; Kevin Shafer, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District; and Noble Wray, retired chief of the Madison Police Department.

The university will present 2,470 bachelor’s degrees, 669 master’s degrees, 146 doctoral degrees and 123 associate degrees.


Members of the media wishing to cover the commencement ceremonies should enter through the Panther Arena’s main doors and ask for assistance from an usher. Media may shoot video or photos from the back or sides of the arena, but should stay out of the middle aisles to avoid interfering with students. There is limited riser space behind the first section of seats.

Chancellor Mark Mone and graduating students can be made available for interviews before or after each ceremony. Please contact John Schumacher ahead of time to arrange an interview with Mone. Dafoe will not be available for interviews.


Willem Dafoe attended UWM in 1973 and 1974 before leaving to become part of Theatre X, which started as a faculty-student workshop and then became an independent experimental theater company. Known internationally as one of the most fearless, talented and successful actors of our time, Dafoe has made more than 100 films.

He has been recognized with four Academy Award nominations, as well as Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations. In 2020, the New York Times named him one of the 25 greatest actors of the 21stcentury. He has been awarded by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, as well as twice by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. He has also received two Independent Spirit Awards, the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup, and a Berlinale Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement.

OTHER HONORARY DEGREES: Mary Alfred, Judy Murphy, Kevin Shafer, Noble Wray

Mary Alfred will receive an honorary Doctor of Adult and Continuing Education degree. During her 40 years in higher education, Alfred spent five years as assistant professor of adult and continuing education at UWM’s School of Education. One of the most prominent scholars of adult education, she was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame in 2016. Her research interests include international adult education; learning and development among women of the African diaspora; sociocultural contexts of adult learning; and issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in education and the workplace. She has published numerous articles that have appeared in both research and professional publication outlets.

Judy Murphy will receive an honorary Doctor of Nursing degree. A Milwaukee native and a nursing alumna of Alverno College, Murphy has been an influential leader in the field of nursing information systems and electronic health records. She served as chief nursing officer for IBM Global Healthcare and as deputy national coordinator for programs and policy in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Prior to that, she spent 36 years at Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, 26 of those years in clinical informatics. With over 100 published articles and book chapters, Murphy has received numerous awards for health IT leadership.

Kevin Shafer will receive an honorary Doctor of Freshwater Sciences and Water Resource Leadership degree. A global leader in freshwater resource management and sustainability, Shafer has led the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District for the past 20 years. Shafer spearheaded development of the nationally recognized Greenseams program, which protects waterways from flooding and stormwater pollution runoff by providing conservation easements. He has been recognized among the Top 25 World Water Leaders and has received the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists’ Edward J. Cleary Award.

Noble Wray will receive an honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare degree. Wray graduated from UWM in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He went on to serve on the Madison Police Department for nearly 30 years, rising in the ranks from patrol officer to chief. A nationally recognized consultant for law enforcement organizations, he has lent his expertise to cities like Ferguson, Baltimore and New York. He presents around the country on topics like implicit bias, Blue Courage and procedural justice. Wray has served in leadership roles at the national, state and local levels.


The numbers of degrees awarded by UWM schools and colleges are below. The numbers include bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, associate and flex degrees.

  • College of Letters and Science: 861
  • Lubar School of Business: 614
  • College of Health Sciences: 349
  • College of Engineering & Applied Science: 268
  • School of Education: 250
  • Peck School of the Arts: 229
  • College of Nursing: 214
  • Helen Bader School of Social Welfare: 203
  • School of Information Studies: 163
  • College of General Studies: 123
  • School of Architecture & Urban Planning: 100
  • Zilber School of Public Health: 45
  • School of Freshwater Sciences: 15
  • Global Studies Interdisciplinary: 7
  • Joint Programs L&S and CEAS: 2