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(818) 677-2130

Honorary Degree to be Awarded by CSUN
to Los Angeles Opera Director

(NORTHRIDGE, Calif., May 8, 2000) --The one honorary degree to be conferred by Cal State Northridge this year will be presented to Peter Hemmings, founding general director of the Los Angeles Opera.

In 1984, Hemmings, who will retire from his position this year, was selected to launch an opera company in Los Angeles, at that time the only major city in the United States without its own company. Since then, he has built Los Angeles Opera into the sixth largest opera company in the country.

The honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree (D.F.A.) is being awarded by California State University, the largest system of senior higher education institutions in the world.

It will be conferred by Louanne Kennedy, interim president of CSUN, on behalf of both the CSU and CSUN, during June 1 commencement ceremonies of the College of Arts, Media and Communication, which nominated the internationally known opera executive for the honor.

Honorary degrees are approved only after stringent nominating procedures have been completed. This included a nomination by William Toutant, interim dean of the College of Arts, Media and Communications, consultation with the Executive Committee of CSUN's Academic Senate, deliberations by a campus Selection Committee, a request to the CSU Board of Trustees and final, formal approval by the board.

Hemmings was nominated not only for his accomplishments over a 43-year career in the arts, but also for the Los Angeles Opera's service to the community in general and to the field of education in particular.

"Under Hemmings' direction," Toutant wrote in his letter of nomination, "the Los Angeles Opera spends over $1.5 million on education and community programming, including elementary and secondary in-school opera programs, which bring opera professionals into the classroom, and free student matinees--the only opera company in the U.S. that does so."

Toutant also cited the opera company's programs designed to make opera accessible to all audiences, including free attendance at dress rehearsals for low-income senior citizens and special work through auxiliaries in Latino and African-American communities.

The Resident Artist Program of the Los Angeles Opera has helped young singers establish significant opera careers. CSUN alumna Carol Vaness and CSU alumni Deborah Voigt and Rodney Gilfrey are operatic stars who sing with the Los Angeles Opera. Graduates from other CSU campuses also have gone on to build major international careers, after participating in the Resident Artist Program.

"I am most gratified," Hemmings said, "to receive this honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Cal State Northridge, which had educated so many fine scholars and singers. Having such a vibrant creative pool from which to draw and nurture new talent has been an immense benefit both to Los Angeles Opera and the greater Southern California arts community.

"It is a privilege to receive this recognition from such an esteemed educational system," he said.

The commencement ceremony, which will begin at 8 a.m. on the lawn of the Oviatt Library, will feature a talk by Dr. Feliz Gutierrez, senior vice president of the Freedom Forum, followed by the conferring of the honorary degree.

Some four to five hundred students, faculty, parents and friends are expected to attend the morning ceremony.

EDITOR: A photo of Peter Hemmings is available by e-mail. Call (818) 677-2130.

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Dick Tyler, Associate Vice President for Public Relations and Communications