Newman, Chestnut to Serve as N.C. A&T Spring 2023 Commencement Speakers

By Jackie Torok / 03/14/2023 Students

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (March 14, 2023) – Two highly regarded leaders in their fields – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Nathan F. Simms Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biology Robert H. Newman, Ph.D., and NAACP Image Award-winning actor Morris Chestnut – will serve as Spring 2023 Commencement keynote speakers, university officials announced today.

“Dr. Newman and Mr. Chestnut have made tremendously positive impacts in their professions and are certain to inspire our Spring 2023 commencement audiences,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “We welcome the perspectives they will share with our Aggie community as we celebrate the achievements of our newest Aggie graduates.”

Newman is the keynote speaker for the graduate student ceremony Friday, May 12, at 3 p.m. in Novant Health Fieldhouse at Greensboro Coliseum.

Since joining the N.C. A&T College of Science and Technology (COST) faculty in 2012, has been awarded more than $15 million in extramural research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense, including R01 and SC1 awards from the NIH and a Center for Excellence in Biotechnology award from the DoD. He is also actively involved in graduate and undergraduate research training, serving as the lead principal investigator (PI) of the NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduate in Synthetic Biology at A&T for the past four years and as a PI on the NIH-sponsored Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Educational Diversity undergraduate research training program.

To date, Newman has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles and mentored 70 undergraduate students, 25 graduate students and five postdoctoral fellows. Many of his undergraduate and graduate students have gone on to pursue Ph.D. degrees and postdoctoral training at some of the nation’s leading institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis, and Wake Forest University.

Newman is also committed to excellence in the classroom, where he has developed both graduate and undergraduate courses to help students better understand and apply biological concepts. During his classes, one of his overarching goals is to help students successfully transition from passive to active modes of learning. To accomplish this, he strives to create learning environments where students not only receive information, but where they also develop the skills necessary to actively pursue knowledge. For instance, he has worked to introduce activity-based learning strategies, such as interactive case studies and in-class problem sets, into the biology curriculum.

Among the many accolades Newman has garnered for teaching and research are the N.C. A&T Outstanding Young Investigator Award and the Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award in 2016. Last year, he received the UNC Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes the extraordinary contributions of faculty members across the UNC System.

Newman received his B.A. in biology and biochemistry from McDaniel College in 1999 before earning his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2006. He conducted postdoctoral research in the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he examined the organization and regulation of cellular phosphorylation networks using a combination of live cell imaging and functional protein microarrays.

Chestnut is the keynote speaker for the baccalaureate student ceremonies in Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday, May 13, at 8:30 a.m. for the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics and College of Education and 3 p.m. for the College of Engineering, John R. and Kathy R. Hairston College of Health and Human Sciences and COST.

Having enjoyed tremendous success as a film and television star for more than two decades, Chestnut is best known for his memorable roles in “Boyz in the Hood,” “The Brothers,” “The Perfect Holiday,” “Think Like a Man,” as well as the commercially and critically acclaimed “The Best Man” and its successful sequel, “The Best Man Holiday.” The latter, in which he reprised his role as Lance, opened with $17 million during its first weekend, the fifth-largest opening for an R-rated romantic comedy, the second-highest opening for an urban romantic comedy, and the sixth-biggest opening for an urban-themed film overall. Chestnut received an NAACP Image Award nomination in the category of “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” for his performance.

Chestnut is a cast member of the current Fox drama, “The Resident” as Dr. Barrett Cain, an intimidating neurosurgeon who believes himself to be a superman physician, capable of curing crippling diseases. He portrays Cain as charming when he wants to be, but utterly ruthless in his quest for money and power.

Previously, Chestnut starred in the NBC drama “The Enemy Within” as FBI Agent Will Keaton who turns to a former CIA operative, played by Jennifer Carpenter, now jailed and known as the most notorious traitor in American history for help in solving crimes.

Chestnut also starred as Dr. Beaumont Rosewood in the Fox series “Rosewood,” a drama centered on a pathologist who teams up with the Miami police to help solve the city’s most challenging cases. He received his fourth NAACP Image Award nomination in the category of “Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series” for his performance.

Chestnut’s most recent films include Screen Gems’ “When the Bough Breaks,” Sony Pictures’ “The Perfect Guy,” and opposite Robert De Niro in the heist thriller “BUS 657.” He starred opposite Halle Berry in TriStar Pictures’ “The Call,” which became a surprise critical and commercial success. That same year, he also starred in Universal Pictures’ summer action film “Kick-Ass 2” opposite Jim Carrey and Chloe Grace Moretz, and the studio’s tentpole summer comedy “Identity Thief” opposite Melissa McCarthy.

Among Chestnut’s television credits are roles on the TNT show “Legends” opposite Sean Bean, FX’S first season of “American Horror Story,” Amazon’s “Goliath” opposite Billy Bob Thornton and Showtime’s critically acclaimed series “Nurse Jackie,” which earned him the 2014 NAACP Image Award in the category of “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series” for his performance as Dr. Ike Prentiss.

Nearly 1,500 undergraduate, more than 300 master’s and almost 60 doctoral students – as well as about 50 students from the Joint Programs in Social Work with the University of North Carolina-Greensboro – will participate during the ceremonies, which will be livestreamed.

Media interested in covering Spring 2023 commencement ceremonies in person should submit a request, including complete contact information, to jtorok@ncat.edu by 5 p.m. Friday, April 28.

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu

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