Lawrence commencement

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Acclaimed TV, theater director to return to Lawrence as Commencement speaker

Lee Shallat Chemel ’65

A Lawrence University alumna who paved an impressive 40-year career in theater, film, and television will return to campus on June 9 as the 2019 Commencement speaker.

Lee Shallat Chemel, a 1965 graduate who first attended Milwaukee-Downer College before transferring to Lawrence when the two schools merged, spent much of her career directing such notable television comedies as “Family Ties,” “Murphy Brown,” “Mad About You,” “Northern Exposure,” “Spin City,” “The George Lopez Show,” “Arrested Development,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Gilmore Girls,” and, most recently, “The Middle.” Her list of directing credits includes more than 500 episodes on more than 90 TV series or specials, from her debut with “Family Ties” in 1984 to her work on “The Middle” in 2018.

She is a four-time individual Emmy Award nominee for directing — three prime time, one daytime.

Details here on 2019 Commencement events at Lawrence

Chemel graduated from Lawrence with a bachelor’s degree in English, magna cum laude, in 1965. She later earned master’s degrees in Asian theater and education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a master of fine arts in acting from the University of Washington’s Professional Acting Training Program. She was an East Asian Languages Fellow at the University of Michigan.

She then taught in public schools in Norwalk, Connecticut, Racine, Wisconsin, and Seattle, Washington, before launching a career in theater.

Chemel received five L.A. Drama Critics Awards for directing in theater.

As a professional theater director, she worked at theaters across the country including the Alley Theatre in Houston, Trinity Rep in Providence, Rhode Island, The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and South Coast Repertory in Orange County, California, where she worked for more than 10 years, also serving as Conservatory director.

She has served as a member of the California Arts Council and on the Liberty Hill Foundation Grants Board, as well as board positions in the Directors Guild of America.

“Lee Shallat Chemel’s successful career as a director of theater, television, and film provides a wonderful example for our graduating class,” said Mark Burstein, president of Lawrence University. “Her passion for and understanding of culture, humor, and current society makes her one of the leading entertainers of our generation. We look forward to celebrating this alumna’s accomplishments at Commencement this spring.”

Chemel mixed her theater successes with a robust career in television. She had a hand in directing episodes in some of the most iconic series in television history, and working with some of the leading actors and actresses of the past 30 years. Her stint with “Gilmore Girls” included the title of co-executive producer as well as director. She also worked as a producer on “The Nanny” and “Happily Divorced,” and she was director on a pair of TV movies.

In addition to her Emmy nominations, she was the recipient of three BET Awards for outstanding direction in comedy and two Humanitas Prize Awards.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, David, a retired actor and teacher. Their daughter, Lizzy, is a graduate of Bard College and an artist living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Their son, Tucker, is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California.

The June 9 Commencement will mark Lawrence University’s 170th. 

Commencement exercises will begin at 10 a.m. at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, located several blocks to the west of campus in downtown Appleton. 

Lawrence University Awarding Honorary Degree to Lehman Bros. Bankruptcy Examiner at June Commencement

Lawrence University graduate Anton “Tony” Valukas, the court-appointed examiner in the historic bankruptcy case of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., will be recognized by his alma mater with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree Sunday, June 10 at Lawrence’s 163rd commencement.

Valukas, chairman of the Chicago-based national law firm Jenner & Block, also will serve as the principal commencement speaker.

Anton "Tony" Valukas '65

Valukas served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois from 1985 to 1989.  He is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. In 2009, Valukas was appointed by a federal judge as the examiner for the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the largest bankruptcy in United States history. As examiner, Valukas investigated the causes of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. After reviewing 34 million documents and interviewing nearly 300 witnesses, Valukas issued a seven-volume, 2,200 page report detailing potential wrongdoing by certain Lehman executives and Ernst & Young, the auditor.

Litigator of the Year

Last month, The American Lawyer named Valukas its 2011 “Litigator of the Year,” an honor that recognizes lawyers who have had “extraordinary results for their clients.” In its cover story, the magazine hailed Valukas as one of the “few heroes to emerge from the financial debacle of 2008.” It cited his 2,200-page, seven-volume Examiner’s Report as “a tour de force of truth-telling” and credited him with “untangling what caused a historic collapse that helped set off the broader financial crisis.” Bankruptcy Court Judge James Peck called Valukas’ report “the most outstanding piece of work ever produced by an examiner.”

Valukas has been named one of the country’s leading litigation lawyers for seven consecutive years by Chambers USA, while Chicago Lawyer honored him as its “Person of the Year” for 2009. Last year, the Anti-Defamation League recognized him with its First Amendment Freedom Award.

“Tony Valukas is a superb role model for our graduating students and should be a very interesting commencement speaker for the entire audience,” said Lawrence President Jill Beck. “Not only is he a distinguished and nationally respected legal expert, he is a humanitarian, a man with a strong social conscience. He demonstrates a balance in life between high professionalism and concern for society that our liberal arts graduates should see in action, so they might consider how to achieve this balance in their own ways in the coming years.”

Civil and Criminal Litigation

Specializing in civil and white collar criminal litigation, Valukas’ extensive experience includes consumer products litigation, product defect and consumer fraud class actions, food contamination, mass accident and environmental claims as well as defense work with accountants, real estate developers and corporate executives in high-profile matters.

Valukas is a frequent presenter to global business and legal leaders on the financial, ethical and legal challenges facing the country, has been the featured speaker at numerous American Bar Association programs and has been published extensively.

“I was surprised and delighted when I received a call from President Beck advising me that the university was going to award me an honorary degree,” said Valukas. “This award comes from an institution that I cherish and which was instrumental in shaping my life.

“So much of what I have become is attributable to the education and insights I gained while a student at Lawrence,” he added. “I remember the faculty with respect and genuine fondness. They profoundly shaped my view of the world and my commitment to the community. For Lawrence to award me this degree is both humbling and an extraordinary honor.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in government at Lawrence in 1965, Valukas earned his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 1968. He joined Jenner & Block in 1976 and was named the firm’s chairman in 2007.

About Lawrence University

Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,445 students from 44 states and 35 countries.