LeVar Burton to Speak at Ashford University Graduation Ceremony

Actor to give keynote address at May commencement

LeVar Burton, who has portrayed such characters as Kunte Kinte in “Roots” and Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” will give the keynote address during Ashford University’s two commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 5. The ceremonies – 10 a.m. for undergraduate students and 3 p.m. for graduate students – will be held at the i wireless Center in Moline, IL.

Ashford’s commencement weekend begins at the university’s Clinton, Iowa campus on Saturday, May 4 with a variety of events for graduates and their families.

LeVar Burton calls literacy “one of the fundamental building blocks of self-esteem,” and believes that “if you increase the level of literacy in society, you increase our potential for change, growth and understanding.” Having served on the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, Burton hopes that all neighborhood libraries will be able to provide free Internet access to everyone.

What does he say to parents who complain that their children never pick up a book or just hate to read? “I would ask them, ‘What kind of example do you set? Is reading a part of your daily life? Do you read for pleasure?’ If you can show a child that reading is fun and should be a part of his daily life, then you have a chance at creating a literate human being.”

Burton was born in Landstuhl, West Germany in 1957 where his father was stationed during military service. In 1959 his family returned to the United States and he was raised and educated in the parochial tradition. His first career choice was not in the field of entertainment. At 13, he entered a Catholic seminary to study for the priesthood. For him, being a priest would fulfill his need to express himself spiritually and to be of service to the community. However, four years later, he decided that an acting career would better fill those needs so he left the seminary and accepted a full academic scholarship at the University of Southern California to pursue a bachelor’s of fine arts degree.

Burton landed his first role – Kunta Kinte in the miniseries “Roots” – at the age of 19. The phenomenal success of the show launched his career and he starred in a string of television movies and films.

Serving as the host and co-executive producer of the highly acclaimed PBS children's television series “Reading Rainbow,” Burton is most proud of the program’s ability to use the medium of television to help create “human beings who are passionate about literature.”

Burton is also known for his portrayal as Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge' in both the box office hit “Star Trek: First Contact” and the television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

In addition to his acting credits, he directed several episodes of both “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager” and a dramatic television movie, “The Tiger Woods Story,” for Showtime.

Also an author, his science fiction novel “Aftermath” debuted in 1997.

Ashford’s two commencement ceremonies on May 5 are open to the public; no tickets are required for admission.

About Ashford University

Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.