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Entrepreneur Neil Blumenthal, A02, to Deliver Commencement Address to the Class of 2020

Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO will speak at May 27 festivities celebrating graduates whose last year at Tufts was interrupted by the early days of pandemic

Neil Blumenthal, A02, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, will deliver the commencement address to the Tufts University Class of 2020 on Friday, May 27.

The university held a virtual degree conferral ceremony for the class of 2020 and promised to hold an in-person commencement celebration once the risk to public health decreased. 

The class’s graduates are invited back to the campus for a graduation ceremony that serves as a celebration of their time at Tufts as well as a reunion with members of the Tufts community who they may not have seen since March 2020.

The ceremony will be the culmination of Tufts’ season of commencement observances, including a ceremony for the Tufts Class of 2022 to be held on Sunday, May 22. Tufts alumna Erika Lee, an author, scholar, and leading historian on the immigrant and Asian American experience, will deliver the 2022 keynote address.

While a student at Tufts, Blumenthal was inspired by classmates and professors to partner his passion for service with a global worldview.

“Tufts in particular takes a global view and very much takes a view of action,” said Blumenthal in a 2021 interview with Tufts Admissions’ Jumbo Talk blog. “It’s one thing to be aware of challenges throughout the world, and it’s another thing to take steps to work to resolve those challenges. I think that’s a very Tufts thing, something that’s prevalent throughout the Tufts community.

“I think about my classmates and it’s often a Tufts student that was the first to go out and not just pay lip service to changing the world, but actually working to make it happen.”

Blumenthal graduated from Tufts in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and international relations.

While studying for his M.B.A. at Wharton Business School, Blumenthal ran VisionSpring, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income men and women sell affordable eyeglasses to people in need with limited access to eyecare. Through this work, he learned about the impact that social entrepreneurship can have in communities where proper eye care is not accessible.

In 2010, Blumenthal co-founded Warby Parker with a focus on designing stylish products and developing technologies that help people see, without charging a premium for eyecare.

Warby Parker started as an online retailer of prescription glasses, and has since expanded to widespread retail locations in the U.S. and Canada, and to include contact lenses, eye exams and vision test services. For every pair of Warby Parker glasses and sunglasses sold, too, another pair is distributed to someone in need, part of a program which has distributed more than 10 million pairs of glasses to date.

“I think for [Warby Parker] we’re just trying to do what feels right,” said Blumenthal in 2021. “Thankfully there are a lot of people that feel the way that we do, that business has an ability to do good in the world, and when it does, it can have a massive impact.”

Blumenthal was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. He currently serves on the board of directors of Allbirds, Sweetgreen, and nonprofit organizations Warby Parker Impact Foundation, RxArt, Responsible Innovation Labs, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and the Partnership Fund for New York City. He also sits on the leadership councils of Robin Hood and Tech:NYC and serves as a general partner of Good Friends LLC.

The New York City native is married to Rachel Blumenthal, A02, the founder and CEO of Rockets of Awesome.

Blumenthal will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree.

“Neil successfully used his education to disrupt an industry and create positive change by improving vision access for people across the globe,” said Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco. “We look forward to welcoming him back to campus with his fellow Tufts alumni to celebrate the resilient Class of 2020, who are already making their own impact on the world.”

In addition to Blumenthal, five distinguished men and women will receive honorary degrees at the May 27 ceremony:

Lisa Cook

Lisa D. Cook, economist. Cook is professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State University, currently focusing her research on economic growth and development, innovation, financial institutions and markets, and economic history. In 2011-2012, she served on White House Council of Economic Advisers, and has had visiting appointments at several institutions including the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia. In January 2022, Cook was nominated by President Joe Biden to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. She is a guest columnist for the New York Times and for the Detroit Free Press and a regular contributor to CNBC, MSNBC, and NPR. Cook was Spelman College’s first British Marshall Scholar and received a second B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley. Additionally, she mentors young economists and supports academic pipeline programs. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Sandra Cotterell

Sandra Cotterell, public health advocate. In a career marked by a dedication to the health of the whole person and the community, Cotterell has served as chief executive officer of Codman Square Health Center since 2011. Codman Square is a community-based, outpatient health-care and multiservice center in Dorchester, Massachusetts, offering comprehensive and holistic health care for all. After earning a B.S. degree in nursing from Simmons College, Cotterell worked as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital and New England Medical Center. She joined Codman as its chief operating officer in 1994. Among her many accomplishments in her nearly three decades at the center, she oversaw a transformation of the center’s space into a wellness and fitness center, complete with a partner nonprofit grocery store, a community teaching kitchen, and an income tax clinic. She is a guest lecturer at both Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Cotterell will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Ruth Moy

Ruth Moy, community leader in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. Moy’s career in business and human services spans nearly 50 years. Since 1973, Moy has been leading the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center—a nonprofit dedicated to advocacy on behalf of Chinese-speaking Asian seniors—and currently serves as its executive director. She applied knowledge that she gained as an entrepreneur working in family restaurants to the provision of culturally and linguistically competent care and services to the community’s seniors. Recognizing that political advocacy at both the city and state levels was crucial to securing funds for community services, she has persistently championed the creation of solutions designed to fill gaps in social services and to enhance the elderly. Her advocacy efforts also led to the establishment of a service network focused on the region’s growing elderly population, including a nutrition and hot lunch program, adult day health programs, and senior centers servicing towns and cities in Greater Boston. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

James Stravridis

James Stavridis, F83, F84, 16th NATO Supreme Allied Commander and former dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts. The longest-serving combatant commander in recent U.S. history, Stavridis spent 37 years in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of four-star admiral. After attending the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Stavridis earned graduate degrees, including a Ph.D., from The Fletcher School. During his four years as the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, where he oversaw operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and the Balkans, and counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Africa. For nearly three years, he led the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, charged with military operations through Latin America. Following his military career, he returned to Fletcher and served for five years as the school’s dean. Stavridis has published 11 books on leadership, the oceans, maritime affairs, and Latin America, is a contributing editor for Time, and appears as chief international security and diplomacy analyst for NBC News. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Jonathan Tisch

Jonathan M. Tisch, A76, businessman and philanthropist. In his role as chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels & Co and co-chairman of the board and a member of the Office of the President of Loews Corporation, Tisch has led Loews’ expansion and emergence as a prominent and respected hotel company with a widely praised culture that embraces the power of partnerships. A co-owner of the New York Giants, Tisch is the author of three bestselling books and hosted the Emmy-nominated television series Beyond the Boardroom. More than 25 years ago, he initiated the Loews Hotels Good Neighbor Policy, a recipient of the President’s Service Award, the highest honor given by the President of the United States for community service directed at solving critical social problems. Tisch served as chairman of New York Rising, established to bring back visitors and revive the city’s economy after 9/11. A spirited Tufts Jumbo, he is vice-chair emeritus of the Tufts board of trustees and is the naming benefactor of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.  He will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Robin Smyton can be reached at robin.smyton@tufts.edu.

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