Raja Changez Sultan ’72 Named Commencement Day Speaker; Honorands Announced

5 min read

Melina Korfonta ’25

News Editor 

Trinity College made an announcement last week naming alumnus Raja Changez Sultan ‘72, an internationally renowned painter and poet from Pakistan, as the featured speaker at Trinity’s 196th Commencement which will take place on Sunday, May 22. Sultan, along with Lloyd Alexander Lewis Jr. ‘69 and Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh ‘80, will also receive an honorary degree from the College.  

“It’s our privilege to welcome all of our well-accomplished honorands back to Trinity. We are so very proud of each of them,” said Berger-Sweeney while commenting on this year’s honorands. “I’m also grateful and excited to have Raja address our Commencement participants. Through the power of his work, he has championed an entire generation to pursue their love for the arts, most notably his home country of Pakistan, and in the process he has helped shape a more just society. His voice, alongside all of our distinguished honorands, will help make this year’s Commencement a truly special occasion.”  

Sultan was educated in Pakistan and England before arriving to Trinity where he would write his first poem “The Mirror.” Sultan graduated from Trinity in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After Trinity, he received two master’s degrees from Columbia University. Sultan used his experience at Trinity to guide him throughout his career as a celebrated writer and painter for now over 50 years. His paintings have been exhibited in Austria, England, Switzerland, Oman, and Pakistan.  

Sultan also serviced the United Nations and the World Health Organization prior to working in senior-level positions for the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. Later, Sultan was appointed as director general for the Pakistan National Council of the Arts in Islamabad where he advanced the work of artists, thinkers, writers, and the visual and performing arts. He will be awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts degree in recognition of his distinguished career and devotion to his craft. 

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Lloyd Alexander Lewis Jr. ‘69 who is the first African American from Alexandria, Virginia, to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church. 

 Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh ‘80, who served as the first female chair of the Trinity College Board of Trustees, will receive an honorary degree as well.   

Lloyd Alexander Lewis Jr., who will be receiving an honorary degree of doctor of divinity,  graduated from Trinity in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in classics and he later earned a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Yale University in 1985. Lewis has served as a preacher, teacher, pastor, and scholar for over 50 years.  

Lewis served parishes in the cities of Hartford, New Haven, Brooklyn, Garden City (New York), and Washington, D.C. after he was ordained a deacon and priest. He later became a professor of New Testament at the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) after starting as an assistant and associate professor; Lewis taught at VTS until 1991. Lewis went on to serve as Dean of the George Mercer Jr. Memorial School of Theology and as bishop’s deputy for education in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island for nine years. Lewis returned to VTS in 2000 and he was named the Molly Laird Downs Professor in New Testament until he retired in 2012.  

Lewis represented the Episcopal Church as a member of the Program for the Theological Education of the World Council of Churches in Prague, Czech Republic. In addition, Lewis has been a member of the General Board of Examining Chaplains of the Episcopal Church. He is also a member of the Alexandria (Virginia) African-American Hall of Fame.  

Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh ‘80 who will also be receiving the degree of doctor of humane letters, graduated from Trinity in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She earned an M.B.A. from Columbia University.  

Thornburgh previously spent 17 years as a member of the Trinity College Board of Trustees. While on the Board, she served as chair of the Presidential Search Committee, and she became Chair of the Board that same year.  

Thornburgh created Marjorie Butcher Circle which is a leadership philanthropy group of alumnae. She also served as co-chair of the Charter Committee for Building Community; tri-chair of the College’s capital campaign to raise a total of $350 million; and as a member of the Board of Fellows. Thornburgh was one of the original creators of the Founders Council of the Women’s Leadership Council and is a member of the Elms Society.  

Thornburgh became the first woman to receive The Eigenbrodt Cup in 2010. Three years later,  she and her husband Richard E. Thornburgh were included on Trinity’s Wall of Honor. In 2020, Thornburgh was named one of Trinity’s 50 for the Next 50 honoring 50 women who will have a lasting impact on the next 50 years at Trinity. 

Beyond Trinity, Thornburgh served as the chair of the board for Convent of the Sacred Heart which is a pre-K–12 independent school for girls in New York City. Thornburgh is currently sitting as a board chair of The Lord’s Place which is an organization committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness in Southeastern Florida.  

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