An honorary doctorate will be awarded to U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera at Fresno State’s 105th commencement at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Save Mart Center.
Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro will confer the Doctor of Letters degree upon the authority of the California State University Board of Trustees in recognition of Herrera’s poetic influence in shaping cultural ideals and the human spirit.
The son of migrant farmworkers, Herrera, a Fowler native and former Fresno State professor, was named as the United States’ 21st poet laureate in 2015. He became the first Hispanic to be named as such. Herrera, who lives in Fresno, was appointed to a second term in 2016.
Herrera was California Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2014 and was elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2011. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards and a PEN West Poetry Award.
His honors include the University of California, Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. He has also received several grants from the California Arts Council.
He was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles and Stanford University and received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Herrera taught at Fresno State from 1990 to 2004 and was chairman of the Chicano and Latin American Studies Department. He recently retired as chairman of the creative writing department at the University of California at Riverside.
He is the author of 28 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children, most recently “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes,” a picture book showcasing inspirational Hispanic and Latino Americans. His most recent book of poems is “Senegal Taxi.”
Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. His creative work often crosses genres, including poetry opera and dance theatre. His children’s book, “The Upside Down Boy,” was adapted into a musical.
His award-winning books for children and young adults include “Calling the Doves,” which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and “CrashBoomLove,” a novel-in-verse for young adults, which won the Americas Award. His book “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle prize in 2009.