Award-winning writer Barry Lopez is College of the Atlantic's 2016 Commencement speaker.Award-winning writer Barry Lopez is College of the Atlantic's 2016 Commencement speaker. Credit: David Liittschwager

Author Barry Lopez, one of the foremost literary voices in environmental and social justice advocacy, will help celebrate College of the Atlantic’s 43rd graduating class as the speaker for the school’s annual commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 4.

“I could not be more enthusiastic about speaking at the COA commencement,” Lopez said. “Many of the students, and the interdisciplinary educational model of the school, embrace the same ethics and ideals I’ve been trying to articulate since I began writing nearly 50 years ago.”

“Barry Lopez is a writer of extraordinary sensibility – he tells stories to make landscape felt” - Eloise Schultz ’16.

Lopez is the recipient of numerous literary and cultural awards, including the National Book Award for Arctic Dreams and the John Burroughs medal for Of Wolves and Men. An elected fellow of the Explorers Club, he’s a frequent contributor to Harper’s, National Geographic, The New York Times, and other publications.

To read Barry Lopez is to commune with a deep thinker. He brings a depth of erudition to his essays and short fiction with painstaking research and by immersing himself in his surroundings, deftly integrating his environmental and humanitarian concerns. In his nonfiction, he frequently examines the relationship between human cultures and physical landscapes. In his fiction, he more often addresses issues of human intimacy, ethics, and identity.

“Barry Lopez is a writer of extraordinary sensibility – he tells stories to make landscape felt. It’s a huge honor to have him speak at COA this spring,” said COA senior Eloise Schultz. “I think that I jumped out of my seat when I first heard he would be the speaker, because I’ve never travelled without one of his books since reading Winter Count in my human ecology core course.

Graduation weekend

Graduation activities begin Friday, June 3 with student project presentations in Gates Community Center and senior work exhibitions around campus, followed by the Laurel Ceremony and parent reception in the evening.Commencement 2015Commencement 2015

On Saturday, the soon-to-be graduates, led by bagpipers and the grand marshal, process past cheering family and friends. The board chair and president provide a welcome, three graduating seniors share their perspectives, and a commencement speaker chosen by the senior class addresses the audience.

As degrees are conferred, students announce a fellow graduate’s name and present him or her with a flower. The ceremony is followed by a reception in the Newlin Gardens. Click here for more information.

A prolific writer 

Lopez’s essays are collected in About This Life, and Crossing Open Ground. He’s also the author of a half dozen story collections in addition to Winter Count, including Field Notes and Light Action in the Caribbean, and of a novella-length fable, Crow and Weasel, a New York Times bestseller. His most recent work includes Resistance, a book of interrelated stories—Lopez’s eloquent response to the recent ideological changes in American society—and Outside, a collection of stories illustrated by Barry Moser.

Lopez is the co-editor with his wife, Debra Gwartney, of Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, a landmark work of language, geography, and folklore. His books and magazine work reflect a life of travel and cultural inquiry that has taken him to the extreme ends of the earth and to more than ninety countries.

Once a landscape photographer, Lopez continues to maintain close contact with a diverse community of artists. He is on the advisory board of Theater Grottesco in Santa Fe and Acclaimed writer Barry Lopez is COA's 2016 Commencement speaker.Acclaimed writer Barry Lopez is COA's 2016 Commencement speaker.has collaborated with Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams on several concert and theater productions. He’s also spoken at openings for sculptor Michael Singer, Native American artist Rick Bartow, and photographer Robert Adams. In another arena of work, Lopez collaborated with Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson in the design of a university curriculum that combines the sciences and humanities in a new undergraduate major.

Lopez has been the subject of a book by William E. Tydeman titled Conversations with Barry Lopez: Walking the Path of Imagination.  A critical analysis of his fiction, Other Country: Barry Lopez and the Community of Artists, by James Warren, was published in 2015 by the University of Arizona Press.

Among Lopez’s many recognitions are honors from The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Association of American Geographers, which named him their 2011 Honorary Geographer (past recipients have been Barbara Kingsolver, Paul Krugman, and John McPhee). He’s received the John Hay Medal from the Orion Society for lifetime achievement, and twice been awarded the Christopher Medal for humanitarian writing. His memoir “Sliver of Sky” was selected for Best American Essays 2014 and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Essays and Criticism. He lives in rural Western Oregon.