Elder Gerrit W. Gong, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is scheduled to be the presiding authority and speaker during BYU's commencement exercises on Thursday, April 22, at 10 a.m. BYU President Kevin J Worthen will conduct the exercises, which will be held virtually and broadcast live on BYUtv from the Marriott Center.
Jazz pianist, composer and professor of music Marcus Roberts will receive an honorary doctorate degree.
All college convocations will be held virtually from April 22–23. Individual colleges will communicate their respective details about convocations.
About the Speaker
Elder Gerrit W. Gong currently serves as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He previously served as a member of the Asia Area Presidency and member of the Presidency of the Seventy.
During his 20 years in Washington, D.C., he served as special assistant to the undersecretary of state at the U.S. State Department, as special assistant to the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, China, and in several positions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He was also assistant to the president for planning and assessment at Brigham Young University.
Elder Gong has a doctorate in international relations and master’s degree in philosophy from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Asian and university studies from BYU.
Elder Gong was born in Redwood City, California. He and his wife, Susan L. Gong, are the parents of four children and four grandchildren.
About the Honorary Degree Recipient
Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts is known throughout the world for his many contributions to the world of jazz music. He is credited with the development of an entirely new approach to the jazz trio, and he is known for his remarkable ability to blend the jazz and classical idioms to create something wholly new while retaining the authenticity of each art form. Roberts is often hailed as “the genius of the modern piano.”
His critically acclaimed legacy of recorded music reflects tremendous artistic versatility as well as his unique approach to jazz performance. His recordings range from solo piano to large ensembles and symphony orchestras, including a popular DVD recording with the Berlin Philharmonic showcasing his ground-breaking arrangement of Gershwin's Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra. Roberts launched his own record label, J-Master Records, in 2009 and has since released several critically acclaimed recordings.
In addition to his renown as a performer, Roberts is also an accomplished composer, receiving commissions from Chamber Music America, Jazz at Lincoln Center, ASCAP, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Savannah Music Festival.
He also serves the blind community, receiving the Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement from the American Foundation for the Blind and recently serving as artistic director for their centennial gala, entitled The Art of Inclusion.
Roberts is an associate professor of music at the School of Music at Florida State University. He holds an honorary doctorate in music from The Juilliard School and is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Music at Bard College.