Miami University spring graduates will hear their commencement speech delivered by the first Southwest Ohio winner of the national MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
Daryl Baldwin, director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University and a leader in Native American language and cultural revitalization, will be the commencement speaker at Miami’s ceremony May 13, at Yager Stadium, Miami officials announced Tuesday.
In September, Baldwin was awarded a $625,000 grant as one of America’s 23 MacArthur annual winners for 2016.
He was the first Ohio winner since 2004 and the first from Butler County and Southwest Ohio.
Baldwin — who is a linguist and cultural preservationist — is leading a revival of the cultural heritage and language of the Miami (Myaamia) Nation, of which he is a citizen. His research and teachings have been hailed by university officials as a connective thread between the school’s shared historical roots with the Miami Tribe.
“I feel very honored,” Baldwin told the Journal-News, saying it will be his first commencement speech.
“The presence of the Miami Tribe has become part of the fabric of Miami University and I am honored to be able to represent the work and dedication of many individuals who have, over the last 40 years, made this possible,” said Baldwin, who is also an adjunct assistant professor in educational leadership for Miami.
Miami University President Gregory Crawford said, “Baldwin’s work is having a tremendous impact that could be felt for generations to come.”
“This cultural reawakening is significant for the tribe and has also brought a wealth of knowledge to the university community,” Crawford said. “I’ve seen firsthand how students share stories fluently in the Myaamia language. It’s incredibly moving.”
Baldwin came to Miami University in 2001 as founding director of the Myaamia Project, which in 2013 became the Myaamia Center.
The Myaamia Center works with the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices Program, which is supporting organizational and curatorial support for the Breath of Life program.
The center — with Baldwin as principle investigator — is also working with a grant to revitalize endangered languages through the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages workshops in Washington, D.C.