Announcing Rebecca Sugar as 2024 Commencement Speaker

Honorary Degrees to be conferred to Sugar and Diane Garthwaite

Maine College of Art & Design today announced renowned animator, director, singer and songwriter Rebecca Sugar will deliver the Commencement address at the College’s 113th graduation ceremony. During the ceremony, which begins at 10:00 am on Friday, May 10, 2024, at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium, we will bestow honorary degrees on Sugar and Vice Chair of Maine College of Art & Design’s Board of Trustees, Diane Garthwaite.

As part of a collaborative search process between students and leadership for the 2024 Commencement Speaker, students in the Animation & Game Arts program reached out to Sugar via a video message, expressing their wish for her to speak at their commencement ceremony. Says Sugar, “I was so touched by the video message from the students at Maine College of Art & Design, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to support the class of 2024.”

About Rebecca Sugar

Best known as the creator of the groundbreaking animated series Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar (she/they) is an animator, director, singer, and songwriter whose work has paved the way for authentic LGBTQIA+ stories in animation.

A poster for Steven Universe

Sugar grew up in Silver Spring, MD, and attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, earning a BFA in Animation in 2009. During college she wrote, directed, and collaborated on several animated short films, including Singles, which she completed for her senior thesis.

As an artist, writer, and songwriter for Adventure Time, her unique combination of humor and heartache caught Cartoon Network’s attention. It led to the creation of her own show, a sci-fi fantasy action comedy dedicated to her brother Steven. Steven Universe became a way to explore her complex relationship with popular cartoons as a queer kid who felt at home with her vibrant, creative family, but alienated by the wider world.

An animated vampire singing in front of a large door

“I am very pleased to welcome Rebecca Sugar to Portland to address the Class of 2024,” said Dr. Laura Freid, President of Maine College of Art & Design. “Rebecca and her work mean so much to many students here, and her career as an animator is both inspiring and reflective. Rebecca is the perfect person to send our students into the world, as she was once in their very same shoes.”

About Diane Garthwaite

In addition to bestowing an honorary degree to Sugar during the Commencement ceremony, the College will also confer an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree to Vice Chair of Maine College of Art & Design’s Board of Trustees, Diane Garthwaite. 

Diane Garthwaite

An avid arts patron and supporter of education, Garthwaite also chairs the Board’s facilities committee and has shepherded initiatives to increase and improve campus housing, including the development of our new Erlang Residence Hall, which opened in 2023 and houses more than 100 students.

Said President Freid, “As we plan for the College’s future, Diane’s leadership support for capital projects will enable Maine College of Art & Design to expand our educational reach and create space for artists and designers of all ages and backgrounds to connect, collaborate, and thrive.”

Prior to her work with the College, Diane served as Board Chair of the Cambridge School of Weston from 2000 to 2005 and chaired the school’s “Changing Lives” capital campaign from 2006 to 2009. She was also a trustee on the Board of the Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, Mass. for nine years, and was Chairperson of the Board for an additional five years. She is President of the AlGar Foundation, her family foundation.

Diane earned a BA in English from Connecticut College and a Landscape Design Certificate from Radcliffe College. Following her successful career as a landscape designer, she enjoys gardening and tending chickens in her retirement. She and her husband, Dr. Matthew H. Liang, share a passion for theater and museums. When they are not visiting their six children and ten grandchildren, Diane and Matt divide their time between Scarborough and Boston.

About Maine College of Art & Design

For 140 years, Maine College of Art & Design has activated students of all pursuits to make art, make an impact, and inspire change. Located in Portland's Arts District, students have access to state-of-the-art facilities, 24-hour-a-day studios, a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and a community-based Artists at Work program—making the College the right place for students who want to make their mark and be seen. Maine College of Art & Design offers BFA Majors and Minors, Graduate Programs, Continuing Studies, Pre-College, and includes the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and the Institute for Contemporary Art. Follow us at @mecaart.