Phil Lord ’97 and Chris Miller ’97 to Speak at Commencement

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The award-winning filmmakers and four others will receive honorary degrees.

Filmmakers Chris Miller '97 and Phil Lord '97
Filmmakers Chris Miller ’97, left, and Phil Lord ’97 at the Academy Awards in 2019. The duo will speak at Commencement on June 11. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images) 

Class of 1997 classmates Phil Lord and Chris Miller, whose more than two-decade-long creative partnership has earned an Academy Award and gained over $3.3 billion at the worldwide box office, will jointly address the Class of 2023 at Commencement on June 11.

They will receive honorary Doctor of Arts degrees at the ceremony.

“Phil and Chris are prolific and gifted storytellers whose lifelong creative collaboration began when they were Dartmouth undergraduates,” says Philip J. Hanlon ’77. “I am delighted to welcome them back to Hanover along with their fellow honorary degree recipients—all outstanding leaders and changemakers whose work is making a profound difference in the world.”

The filmmakers’ partnership began at Dartmouth, where Lord majored in art history and Miller majored in studio art, and has led to successful films and television projects such as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Cocaine Bear, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 and 22 Jump Street, Clone High, The Afterparty and dozens more across animation and live-action.

Clip from Lord and Miller video
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Filmmakers Chris Miller ’97 and Phil Lord ’97 react to being invited to speak at Dartmouth’s Commencement on June 11. (Video by Lord and Miller) 

The pair learned animation from David Ehrlich, a professor emeritus of film and media studies. Before graduating, Miller caught the attention of Disney’s then-chief executive, Michael Eisner, and the pair was recruited to work for the company developing TV projects.

“We spent a year developing Saturday morning TV shows. Well, we pitched a bunch of things that were inappropriate for children,” Lord told Jake Tapper ’91 in a 2019 Dartmouth Alumni Magazine interview. (Tapper, a CNN News anchor who joined the Dartmouth Board of Trustees in 2022, delivered the Commencement address in 2017.)

It was the beginning of the era of animated TV aimed at adult audiences, and while Lord and Miller’s off-beat concepts didn’t find a home at Disney, the pair managed to pitch an idea from their Dartmouth days to MTV. That idea was Clone High, an animated television series set at a high school for the teenage clones of famous historical figures.

The series didn’t last long, but it garnered Lord and Miller their first showrunner and executive producer credits and what Miller described to Tapper as “an underground following” that helped lead to their first film break, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. HBO Max is releasing a refresh of Clone High this spring; Lord and Miller are overseeing it and serving as executive producers.

Among their other film credits, Lord and Miller are behind The Mitchells vs. The Machines, which was nominated for a 2022 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, and the animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature, a BAFTA Award, seven Annie Awards, and more than 20 awards from various critics’ groups.

They wrote and directed The LEGO Movie—which earned BAFTA, PGA, NBR, BFCA Critics Choice, and Annie Awards and a Golden Globe nomination—and directed 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street.

For television, Miller created, wrote, and directed the Apple TV+ series The Afterparty, for which Lord served as executive producer. The pair also wrote for and produced How I Met Your Mother from 2005 to 2006.

Coming up, their Spider-Verse sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, is set for release in June.

At the Commencement ceremony, President Hanlon will deliver his final valedictory address as president, and a valedictorian from the senior class will address the graduates.

Photo grid of Dartmouth honorands.
Along with Chris Miller ’97 and Phil Lord ’97, the honorary degree recipients for the 2023 Commencement are, clockwise from left, Andrea Hayes Dixon ’87, MED ’91, Jennifer Carlson ’04, Gilda Barabino, and Ben Wilson ’73. 

In addition to Lord and Miller, four leaders in the fields of engineering, sociology, medicine, and environmental law will receive honorary degrees at Commencement:

  • Gilda Barabino, president of Olin College of Engineering
  • Jennifer Carlson ’04, associate professor in sociology and government and public policy at the University of Arizona
  • Andrea Hayes Dixon ’87, MED ’91, professor and chair of surgery at Howard University School of Medicine
  • Benjamin “Ben” Wilson ’73, leading environmental litigator and former Dartmouth trustee
About the Honorary Degree Recipients

Gilda Barabino (Doctor of Science)

Gilda Barabino, who became Olin College of Engineering’s second president in July 2020, is a biomedical and chemical engineer whose seminal research on sickle cell disease has informed current technologies and novel therapies.

Barabino has dedicated her career to changing the face of engineering and to finding solutions to medical problems and health inequities. Before Olin, she served as dean of the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York, where she established a master’s program in translational medicine; as the first vice provost for academic diversity at Georgia Institute of Technology; and as vice provost for undergraduate education at Northeastern University.

Chair of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Barabino co-chaired the groundbreaking 2023 NASEM report Advancing Antiracism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in STEM Organizations.

Barabino earned her BS from Xavier University of Louisiana and her PhD from Rice University, where she was the first African American to receive a doctorate in chemical engineering. Xavier awarded her an honorary degree in 2016.

In 2019, she was the first chair of the External Advisory Committee for Dartmouth’s Campus Climate and Culture Initiative.

Barabino will also be the speaker at the Thayer School of Engineering Investiture on Saturday, June 10.

Jennifer Carlson ’04 (Doctor of Science)

Jennifer Carlson, an associate professor of sociology and of government and public policy at the University of Arizona and a 2022 MacArthur Fellow, is a leading expert on guns in American society.

Her books include Citizen-Protectors: The Everyday Politics of Guns in an Age of DeclinePolicing the Second Amendment: Guns, Law Enforcement, and the Politics of Race, and Merchants of the Right: Gun Sellers and the Crisis of American Democracy. Her research has been published in numerous scholarly publications, including the American Journal of Sociology, Social Problems, Social Forces, and Gender and Society. In addition, she is a frequent contributor to leading news outlets, including PBS, the New York Times, NPR, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times.

Carlson majored in mathematics and sociology at Dartmouth and earned her PhD in sociology in 2013 from the University of California, Berkeley. Her current research, funded by the National Science Foundation, examines the experiences of gun violence survivors in Florida and California.

Andrea Hayes Dixon ’87, MED ’91 (Doctor of Science)

Andrea Hayes Dixon was appointed dean of Howard University’s College of Medicine and vice president of clinical affairs in October 2022. She is the medical school’s first female dean and the first Black woman pediatric surgeon in the United States.

Nationally and internationally known for her pioneering research on rare soft tissue sarcomas in children, Hayes Dixon previously served as section chief of pediatric surgery at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, surgeon-in-chief of the University of North Carolina Children’s hospital, and division chief at UNC. She is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the author of over 160 published manuscripts and dozens of book chapters.

Hayes Dixon majored in religion at Dartmouth and went on to earn her MD at the Geisel School of Medicine. She completed her residency at the University of California, Davis East Bay; a molecular biology fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco; a pediatric surgical oncology fellowship at the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.; a pediatric surgery fellowship at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children; and a special fellowship in melanoma and sarcoma at MD Anderson.

A member of the American Surgical Association and a regent of the American College of Surgeons, she has served on the Executive Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group Sarcoma Committee, chaired the Cancer Committee for the American Pediatric Surgical Association, and served as president for the Society of Black Academic Surgeons. Then-President Donald Trump appointed Hayes Dixon to the National Cancer Advisory Board, which reports to the director of the National Cancer Institute and the secretary of health. In addition, she served as a member of the Pediatric Disease Query PDQ, a national committee that vets and summarizes pediatric cancer publications for the National Institute of Health website.

Benjamin Wilson ’73 (Doctor of Humane Letters)

Ben Wilson has represented clients in complex environmental litigation and environmental justice matters and counseled on the connection between climate change and climate justice for more than 40 years. The retired chair of Beveridge & Diamond, PC, a leading law firm focused on environmental and natural resource law and litigation, he served as the deputy monitor for environmental issues in the Volkswagen AG emissions case and as court-appointed monitor for the Duke Energy coal ash remediation project.

Wilson is a founder of the environmental law program at the Howard University School of Law, where he has served as an adjunct professor of environmental law since 2005. A tireless advocate of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, he founded the Diverse Lawyers Network and the African American General Counsel and Managing Partners Networks. His awards include the Environmental Law Institute’s Environmental Achievement Award, the Council for Court Excellence’s Justice Potter Stewart Award, the Dartmouth Club of Washington’s Daniel Webster Award, the National Association of Women Lawyers’ Lead by Example Award, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from The American Lawyer and The National Law Journal.

At Dartmouth, Wilson completed a senior fellowship, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to earn his JD from Harvard Law School. A trustee of Dartmouth from 2012 to 2020, he has served on the boards of the Environmental Law Institute, District of Columbia Bar Foundation, District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, APCO Worldwide, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Additional Commencement Information

Saturday, May 27

9 a.m.—Geisel School of Medicine Class Day on the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center Lawn. Chidi Chike Achebe, MED ’96, the founder, CEO, and chairman of the Boston-based African Integrated Development Enterprise, will be the featured guest speaker.

Friday, June 9

2 p.m.—The Dartmouth Institute Class Day on the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center Lawn. The TDI Class Day speaker will be Antonia Novello, who served as the 14th surgeon general of the United States.

Saturday, June 10

9:15 a.m.—Thayer School of Engineering Investiture at the West End Circle. Gilda Barabino, the president of Olin College of Engineering, will deliver the Investiture address. She has been named this year’s recipient of the Robert Fletcher Award, Dartmouth Engineering’s highest honor, which is named for the founding director and first professor of engineering at Thayer.

1 p.m.—Tuck Investiture at steps of Tuck Hall. Tracy Sun, Tuck ’05, co-founder and senior vice president of seller experience at Poshmark, will deliver the Investiture address.

4 p.m.—Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Investiture on the Green. Reception to follow on the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center Lawn.

Sunday, June 11

9 a.m.—Academic procession to the Green. The Commencement ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m.

More information about Commencement can be found on the Commencement website.

Hannah Silverstein