Mark Samels, the executive producer of PBS’ “American Experience,” was announced last week as the commencement speaker for the 2014 traditional graduation ceremony. Samels will also receive an honorary doctoral degree at the ceremony.
An official statement on behalf of Elizabethtown College President Carl Strikwerda and the Academic Occasions Committee was released to the College community on Friday, March 21. The statement also explained that “American Experience” is a history series that airs on PBS for which Samels became the producer in 2003 and has led the program to win nearly every award offered in this specific industry.
“As a student, teacher and scholar of American literature and culture, I was thrilled that Samels was chosen as the commencement speaker,” Academic Occasions Committee Member and Associate Professor of English John Rohrkemper said. “His series ‘The American Experience’ is one of the best on television: smart, entertaining and often beautiful documentaries.”
Samels was also the executive producer of “The Amish,” a film that made its debut in February 2012 at Etown before it publicly premiered nationwide. Distinguished College Professor and Senior Fellow of the Young Center Donald Kraybill also appeared in the film and worked with the local Amish community to help Samels produce the show.
The Academic Occasions Committee the overall responsible party for commencement, convocation and more. Each year, the Committee filters through numerous possible candidates to speak at the commencement ceremony. The Committee is made up mostly of Etown faculty and staff members. “I do have reservations about the process, however, and I hope that in the future we will work to have more involvement of students in the selection process,” Rohrkemper said.