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Two Extraordinary Commencement Speakers Have Roots In CNY

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Christopher Ashley and Ann Cody have at least two things in common: They’re both from Central New York and they will both receive honorary doctoral degrees from SUNY Cortland this Saturday for going on to achieve extraordinary accomplishments.

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Ashley grew up on the SUNY Cortland campus. He’s the son of the late Professor of Philosophy Emeritus Lawrence Ashley, but his legacy extends far beyond the borders of this ol’ town.

What began as an interest while attending Cortland’s former Campus School and playing extras in the Drama Department’s plays and musicals blossomed over the years into a Tony Award-winning career as a director.

He graduated from Yale University in 1984, majoring in english and math. In 1987, he became one of the earliest graduates of the Drama League Directors Project, recognized as the nation’s preeminent development program for young directors.

His work includes highly acclaimed productions in off-Broadway and regional theatre productions, as well as television and film.

Ashley has been nominated for three Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Musical, winning in 2017 for “Come from Away.”

This Saturday, he can add an honorary doctorate to his growing list of accolades.

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Ann Cody is a three-time Paralympic athlete who has dedicated her life to combating discrimination and ensuring opportunities for people with disabilities around the world.

After becoming paralyzed at age 16 as a Groton High School athlete, Cody chose not to quit and give up on life, but to believe in herself and go on to accomplish extraordinary things.

In 2014, she joined the U.S. State Department after more than 20 years of advocating for women’s and disability rights in private and non-profit sectors.

She’s testified before the U.S. Congress on implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and has held leadership positions related to the Paralympic movement in the U.S. Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee and International Olympic Committee.

Cody’s career playing wheelchair basketball began at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design and a Master of Science in Leisure Studies/Recreation.

She went on to represent the United States in the sport at three Paralympic Games, winning five medals, including one gold. Cody also won the 1989 Chicago Marathon and the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon in the women’s wheelchair division. She was also awarded the Paralympic Order, the highest honor bestowed by the International Paralympic Committee, among many other accolades.

Cody was eventually inducted into the U.S. Adaptive Sports Hall of Fame and come Saturday, will have an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York.

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WXHC News Director Vincente Bellardini is in the process of locking down interviews with these two, so definitely stay tuned!

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