Multiple Emmy Winner, Acclaimed Director, Producer, and Media Leader Randy Barbato ’82 to Deliver Commencement Address


Emerson College, the nation’s premier institution for the arts, communication, and the liberal arts, announces its commencement speaker, honorary degree recipients, and Commencement information for 2024. On Sunday, May 12, during Emerson College’s 144th Commencement Ceremony, the College will honor award-winning executives, creators, and Emersonians for their contributions and efforts to the arts, communication, and greater humanity.  Randy Barbato ’82, acclaimed director, producer, and co-founder of World of Wonder, the multi-platform entertainment company behind the Emmy Award-winning show “RuPaul’s Drag Race”; Emerson Trustees Doug Holloway and Al Jaffe; and Interim Provost Jan Roberts-Breslin will receive honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Barbato ‘82 will deliver the commencement address.

Approximately 1,045 undergraduate students will receive their degrees during the Commencement Ceremony that will be held at the Agganis Arena at Boston University, 925 Commonwealth Avenue. The Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 12, and be streamed live at Graduate Hooding Ceremonies for the School of the Arts and School of Communication will be held the day prior at the Shubert Theatre, beginning at 2:00 p.m.

Press are invited to film and photograph undergraduate and graduate ceremonies. Press passes/media credentials are available at registration or by contacting rosemary_lavery [at] (rosemary_lavery[at]emerson[dot]edu) or 781-413-5491 day-of event.

Pool feed (mult-box) with HD-SDI 1080i video feed with embedded audio (located stage right on the floor) and audio feed are available upon request.

Following the ceremony, hyperlinks to downloadable video and photos will be made available.

Randy Barbato ’82 is an acclaimed director, producer, and co-founder of World of Wonder — the multi-platform entertainment company he founded in 1991 alongside his creative and business partner Fenton Bailey. Since then, the duo has been behind the Emmy® Award-winning “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (MTV) and “Million Dollar Listing” (Bravo) LA & NY franchises, as well as numerous award-winning documentaries. His company, World of Wonder (WOW), has reshaped international pop culture, earning 33 Emmys, inspiring two Oscars, and creating the global network WOW Presents Plus across 190 territories. He is one of the masterminds behind the global “Drag Race” universe, which has iterations in more than 20 countries across the globe and counting on WOW Presents Plus. With Bailey, Barbato has produced more than 250 projects and shares nearly three dozen credits as co-directors. Award-winning and critically acclaimed projects include “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” inspiring the Oscar-winning scripted film by the same name; “Monica in Black and White”; “Wishful Drinking”; “Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes” (HBO); “Inside Deep Throat”; “Party Monster”; “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures”; “Every Brilliant Thing”; “Out of Iraq”; “Small Town News” (HBO) and more. Barbato has been honored with the IDA Pioneer Award, Realscreen’s Global 100, Variety’s Reality Leaders, and Variety’s Reality TV Impact Report, as well as OUT 100. The duo has also been named by The Hollywood Reporter as the #1 unscripted producers working in the non-fiction space today. World of Wonder was ranked #2 among film and TV powerhouses in Fast Company’s World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies, and WOW and the international “Drag Race” franchise was recently named Hottest TV Franchise in Adweek’s 2024 Hot List.

Douglas Holloway ’76 is a media executive with more than four decades of experience in network, cable and streaming television strategy, sales, marketing and development. He began his career in TV in the early 1980s with CBS TV’s financial strategic planning team, helping to develop and then launch CBS Cable. In 1981, he moved to Time Inc and launched the cable listing guide TV Cable Week. He joined USA Networks in 1983, where he developed and led their affiliate relations division. In 1992, under his direction, he developed and launched the SyFy Channel, and in 2004, with NBC’s purchase of Universal and USA Networks, Holloway was named president of cable investments, managing AETN, Peacock Productions, and National Geographic International, among other properties. In 2008, he became president of NBC Television Networks’ head of affiliate relations, marketing, and strategic partnerships. He later became president of multichannel distribution at ION Media Networks, Inc. In 2020, he launched two multicultural urban streaming channels serving BIPOC communities: UKWmedia and Urbn-tv. He has received a long list of industry awards and recognitions, including the National Cable Television Association’s Vanguard Award for Marketing, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications, and Alumni Achievement awards from both Emerson and Columbia University, where he earned his MBA. In April 2023, he was inducted into The Cable Center’s Cable Hall of Fame, he will join the Broadcasting + Cable Hall of Fame in September 2024, and he is a Cable Pioneer.  

Al Jaffe ’68 spent nearly 30 years as an executive at ESPN, where, in his role as vice president of talent negotiation and production recruitment, he hired and negotiated contracts for dozens of broadcasters, many of whom went on to become household names: Robin Roberts, Suzy Kolber, Stuart Scott, Stan Verrett, Rece Davis, Kenny Mayne, and Neil Everett among them. He launched so many careers at ESPN that in 1996, then-”SportsCenter” anchor Rich Eisen dubbed him “The Kingmaker.” His scouting abilities and hiring instincts came in handy when, from 2004-2006, he was one of the judges on ESPN’s reality competition “Dream Job,” in which contestants vied for a contract with the network. Prior to joining ESPN in 1987, Jaffe worked as a news producer at Boston TV affiliates, and news director at two stations in California. Jaffe served on the Emerson College Board of Trustees for 17 years and was Co-Vice Chair from 2015 to 2021. He is also President of the Ivoryton (CT) Playhouse Board of Trustees.

Jan Roberts-Breslin, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Emerson College, is an independent media artist whose work has been broadcast on PBS and awarded at numerous national and international festivals. Her work has been exhibited at major contemporary art museums including the ICA Boston and the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA, and has explored issues including post-feminist domesticity, and the subjectivity of history. Recent work includes an ironic attempt to use census questions as a means to accept age and mortality. She was the founding director of Emerson’s MFA in Media Art program, and the author of Making Media: Foundations of Sound and Image Production (Focal Press/Routledge), the fifth edition of which was published in 2022. Prior to serving as interim provost, she was the dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Emerson, and a professor in the College’s Visual and Media Arts Department.

Photos of honorary degree recipients are available.

Previous Emerson College commencement honorary degree recipients include Warner Bros. executive Pamela Abdy ’95; screenwriter, director, and producer Adele Lim ’96; late-night TV host Jay Leno ’73; actor and comedian Denis Leary ’79; renowned journalist, author, and host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, Scott Simon; co-creator of the hit series “Friends” and Emerson Trustee Kevin Bright ’76; former poet laureate Billy Collins; celebrated civil rights advocate Anita Hill; Pulitzer Prize–winning author David McCullough; and 2016 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” winner, playwright, author and poet Claudia Rankine.

Randy Barbato

About the College

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. The College has approximately 4,161 undergraduates and 554 graduate students from across the United States and nearly 70 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 90 student organizations and performance groups. Emerson is known for its experiential learning programs at Emerson Los Angeles, located in Hollywood, and at its 14th-century castle, in the Netherlands. Additionally, there are opportunities to study in Washington, DC, London, China, and the Czech Republic, Spain, Austria, Greece, France, Ireland, Mexico, Cuba, England, and South Africa. The College has an active network of 51,000+ alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit