Rock legend Stephen Stills, arts dean Onye Ozuzu slated as fall commencement speakers

September 27, 2018
Steve Orlando

Stephen Stills, singer/songwriter and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer whose legendary six-decade career traces its origins  to Gainesville, will be the speaker for the University of Florida’s fall commencement in December, the first universitywide ceremony to be held in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in decades. He will be joined by UF College of the Arts Dean Onye Ozuzu, who will be the faculty speaker.

Dean Onye Ozuzu

UF College of the Arts Dean Onye Ozuzu

Stills also will be receiving an honorary doctorate of music, for which he was nominated by UF’s School of Music.

The ceremony, scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 15, marks a return to a UF tradition that dates back to UF’s very beginning in 1906. Universitywide commencements were held in the stadium almost every year from 1937 until 1981, when they moved to the then-new Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The last universitywide ceremony in the O’Dome was in 2001.

“I’m thrilled to return the tradition of celebrating our graduates with a joyous universitywide ceremony,” Fuchs said. “And what better way to do it than with music and art: Not only Mr. Stills and Dean Ozuzu as featured speakers, but also performances by the UF School of Music choir and band.”

Stills is one of rock music's most enduring figures with a career now spanning, multiple solo works and four hugely influential groups – Manassas; Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash; and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice for Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash, is a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and is a BMI Music Icon. He is currently on a national tour with singer-songwriter Judy Collins.

As renowned for his instrumental virtuosity as for writing era-defining anthems including "For What It's Worth" and "Love The One You're With," Stills is ranked No. 28 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, calling his acoustic picking on "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" "a paragon of unplugged beauty." Three of his albums, “Buffalo Springfield Again,” “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” and “Déjà Vu,” are among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Stills lived in Gainesville during the 1950s when he attended J.J. Finley Elementary School and again in the early 1960s, when he attended Gainesville High School. The 1963 GHS yearbook shows that Stills was in the marching band, the chorus and played guitar in a musical group called The Accidental Trio. He remembers selling soft drinks in UF’s stadium during football games. Stills also was enrolled briefly at UF in 1963 before leaving for New York City to try his hand at performing.

Stills donated generously toward the construction of what is now the George Steinbrenner Band Building. The building is home to the Stephen Stills Rehearsal Room.

Stills first rose to national and international fame with Buffalo Springfield, which formed in Los Angeles in 1966 with the original line-up of Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay—the group's triumvirate of guitarists—along with Bruce Palmer (bass), and Dewey Martin (drums). The group delivered three albums and song classics including "Mr. Soul," "Rock and Roll Woman," "For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey, What's That Sound)," "Bluebird," and "Go and Say Goodbye" before disbanding in 1968. While Buffalo Springfield's time together was short, the impact of its music never waned, and a 2011 reunion tour was one of the most buzzed-about music events of the year.

Ozuzu is a dance administrator, performing artist, choreographer, educator and researcher who joined UF as Dean of the College of the Arts in August. Actively presenting work since 1997, Ozuzu has danced or choreographed nationally and internationally at The Joyce Soho in New York City, Kaay Fecc Festival Des Tous les Danses in Dakar, Senegal, La Festival del Caribe in Santiago, Cuba, Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C., and McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans. She has performed in Chicago at Hamlin Park Summer Sampler, with Red Clay Dance in La Femme, and in the Afro-Latin@ Summer Dance Intensive at Columbia College Chicago. Ozuzu has been Artist in Residence at Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative of the Rebuild Foundation, EarthDance Workshop and Retreat Center, Bates Dance Festival, Chulitna Wilderness Lodge and Retreat, and Lagos danceGATHERING in Lagos, Nigeria.

Her collaboration with jazz composer Greg Ward, “Touch My Beloved’s Thought,” premiered at the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in Chicago—a live dance and music performance in honor of Charles Mingus and commissioned by Links Hall and Constellation. A more recent work, “Project Tool,” which explored the relationship between mind, body and tool, was a 2018 Joyce award and a 2016 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist recipient as well as a National Performance Network Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Links Hall in partnership with Dancing Grounds and NPN.

Ozuzu has dedicated much of her work as a dance artist to cultivating space for diverse dance forms to exist in pluralist relationship to one another. In her body she has negotiated the inter-sectionality between many movement forms from tennis to ballet, West African dance to Hatha Yoga, freestyle House to salsa, contemporary dance to Aikido. Rather than just “collecting” these dance styles, she cultivates the ability to make choices among these techniques with an intention to access a purposefully hybridized movement practice. She seeks a relationship that is like the relationship of a maker to their tools, rather than a person to their habits. Ozuzu makes contemporary dance that is “tooled” by, but not dictated by, traditional movement cultures in style, technique, concept and execution.

The UF commencement ceremony will be live streamed. For more information, visit https://commencement.ufl.edu/

Media wishing to cover commencement should register with UF Communications, news@ufl.edu

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