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The College of New Rochelle Announces BET Networks Chairman, CEO Debra L. Lee the Speaker for 110th Commencement Ceremony

March 28, 2017
(Left) Debra L. Lee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks, (Right) Sister Mary Virginia Orna, OSU, Professor Emerita of Chemistry at The College of New Rochelle

Debra L. Lee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks, a unit of Viacom Inc. and the leading provider of entertainment for the African-American audience and consumers of Black culture globally, will be the keynote speaker for The College of New Rochelle’s 110th Commencement ceremony to be held Tuesday, May 23 at 1:00 p.m. at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

Nearly 1,000 baccalaureate and master’s degrees will be awarded to the Class of 2017 at the ceremony where Ms. Lee and Sister Mary Virginia Orna, OSU, Professor Emerita of Chemistry at CNR, will be presented with honorary degrees.

“We are delighted to have Debra Lee as the keynote speaker for this year’s commencement ceremony. Her success as a visionary leader in the entertainment industry is an inspiration to our graduates as they begin their own careers,” said Dr. Dorothy Escribano, interim president of The College of New Rochelle. “Both Debra Lee and Sr. Mary Virginia have made exceptional contributions to their respective fields and we are honored to have the opportunity to recognize both at this year’s Commencement.”

About the Honorees:

Under her leadership, Debra L. Lee has led the company’s successful reinvigorated brand and successful programming vision. Her vision for BET’s reinvigorated approach is built on supporting families, embracing and encouraging their dreams, and focusing on the issues that are important to them. In September 2009, Ms. Lee managed the launch of Centric, a 24-hour music and entertainment network. Under her leadership, Centric was rebranded in 2014 as the first network designed for Black women. She also oversees the company’s current growth initiatives, including international distribution of the brand in Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, France, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

Named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment, Ms. Lee’s achievements in a 25-plus year career at BET Networks have earned her numerous accolades from across the cable industry, as well as recognition as one of this country’s most respected business executives. Ms. Lee was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame and was honored with the Distinguished Leadership Vanguard Award by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Most recently, Ms. Lee was honored as an Icon at the 2017 Grammy Salute to Industry Icons for her major contributions to American music and culture through BET. This distinguished honor was presented by Clive Davis and The Recording Academy. She is the first woman to receive this honor. 

She was appointed by President Obama to the White House Management Advisory Board and is a member emeritus of the Federal Communications Commission’s Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for former President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

Sister Mary Virginia Orna, OSU is Professor Emerita of Chemistry at CNR, having taught from 1966 to 2006 at the College and is currently Scientist in Residence. She has lectured and published widely in the areas of color chemistry and archaeological chemistry as both an American Chemical Society (ACS) tour speaker and an invited lecturer across the United States and around the world. As a Fulbright Fellow in Israel, Sister Mary Virginia researched ancient middle-eastern artifacts in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

She has also authored numerous book chapters and encyclopedia articles, six books, and edited eleven others. Her articles have appeared in several journals, including the Journal of Chemical Education, Color Research and Application, Studies in Conservation, Analytical Chemistry, Microchemical Journal, Journal of Biological Chemistry, and American Chemical Society monographs. Her 2013 book, The Chemical History of Color has been named the most popular book in the Springer series on the History of Chemistry. In addition, Sister Mary Virginia has also been a frequent contributor of crossword puzzles to the Sunday New York Times, SciQuest, Clinical Chemistry News, American Laboratory, and Today’s Chemist.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Chemical Manufacturing Association’s Catalyst Award for excellence in college chemistry teaching, CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) New York State Professor of the Year, National Gold Medalist Award, Merck Innovation Award, the James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry, ACS George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, and the ACS 2009 Award for Volunteer Service.