St. Bonaventure University welcomes this year’s All Bonaventure Reads author Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker and theatrical producer, to campus Tuesday, Oct. 1.
Vargas will deliver a keynote address to members of the Class of 2023 at 7 p.m. in the Reilly Center Arena. The talk is free and open to the public, with a book signing in the University Bookstore to follow.
Vargas’ best-selling memoir, “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen,” was published by HarperCollins in 2018 and is the university’s 14th all-campus read.
As part of the All Bonaventure Reads initiative, first-year students at St. Bonaventure received a copy of “Dear America” during Orientation and were asked to read the book and write an essay reflecting on it as their first college assignment. This fall, students are engaged in conversations about the book’s themes in their first-year seminar course, SBU 101.
Now 38 years old, Vargas was 12 when his mother sent him from the Philippines to California to live with his grandparents. It wasn’t until he tried to apply for a driver’s license as a teenager that he learned he had entered the U.S. with false documents.
A leading voice for the human rights of immigrants, Vargas founded the non-profit media and culture organization Define American, named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast
Company. Most recently, he co-produced Heidi Schreck’s acclaimed play “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which opened on Broadway last spring.
In 2011, The New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay Vargas wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant. A year later, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine worldwide with fellow undocumented immigrants as part of his follow-up cover story. He then produced and directed “Documented,” an autobiographical documentary feature film that aired on CNN and received a 2015 NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Documentary. Also in 2015, MTV aired “White People,” an Emmy-nominated television special he produced and directed on what it means to be young and white in a demographically-changing America.
Among accolades he has received are the Freedom to Write Award from PEN Center USA and honorary degrees from Colby College and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Passionate about the role of arts in society and promoting equity in education, he serves on the advisory board of TheDream.US, a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students.
A product of the San Francisco Bay Area, Vargas is a 2004 graduate of San Francisco State University, where he was named Alumnus of the Year in 2012. An elementary school named after Vargas opened in his hometown of Mountain View, California, in August.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. In 2019, St. Bonaventure was named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report.
St. Bonaventure has chosen the nonfiction book “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson as its common read for 2015-2016. This All Bonaventure Reads selection explores the inequity embedded in the U.S. criminal justice system.
“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” was released in October and focuses mainly on the work of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a legal practice Stevenson founded as a young lawyer that is dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need.
One of Stevenson’s first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. It transformed the lawyer’s understanding of mercy and justice forever and illustrates numerous ongoing challenges in work advocating for social justice.
About the author
7 p.m. | Monday, Oct. 26
Address by: Anthony Ray Hinton (above, right), an exonerated death row inmate, and Charlotte Morrison, senior attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative
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