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Tony Award-Winning Choreographer to Deliver Point Park University’s 50th Commencement Address

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rob Ashford, a 1983 graduate of Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts and honored Broadway choreographer, will give Point Park University’s undergraduate Commencement address on Saturday, May 1, at 1 p.m. at Mellon Arena in Downtown Pittsburgh.  Ashford won a Tony Award for choreography for Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002.  He is currently directing and choreographing the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises, which is now in previews.  Ashford will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree as part of the Commencement ceremony.

“As Point Park recognizes its 50th anniversary this year, we are pleased to have Rob Ashford return to Pittsburgh to celebrate with our community,” said Paul Hennigan, president of Point Park University.  “Rob’s theatrical journey from his hometown in West Virginia, to the dance studios of Point Park to the stages of London and Broadway make him an inspirational speaker for our graduates and their families.”

Ashford’s first opportunity to choreograph was Kiss of the Spider Woman in Buenos Aires. After that, he worked as associate choreographer for Pittsburgh-native Kathleen Marshall on the 1999 revival of Kiss Me, Kate. Ashford went on to choreograph Thoroughly Modern Millie, for which he won a 2002 Tony Award. He was also nominated for The Wedding Singer. Additional Broadway credits include Curtains and The Wedding Singer, both of which earned him Tony nominations for best choreography.  Ashford has been nominated for six Laurence Olivier Awards and has received an Emmy Award, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award.

In London, Ashford has choreographed A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum for the Royal National Theatre and Guys and Dolls and Evita on The West End. In recent years he directed Parade and A Streetcar Named Desire, both at London’s Donmar Warehouse, where he is now an associate director.

Point Park will also present Shea Mihm Gopaul, a 1976 graduate of Point Park and director of administration for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree as part of its master’s degree Hooding and Commencement Ceremony at 9 a.m. in Mellon Arena. Gopaul will address the master’s degree graduates during the ceremony.

A Pittsburgh native, Gopaul earned a dual degree cum laude in dance and history from Point Park. She oversees the OCHA administration for New York, Geneva and 30 country/field offices. She has served at the senior level in the UN International Labour Organization and World Health Organization (WHO) for nearly two decades and has worked in the areas of finance, strategic/program planning, resource mobilization, budgeting and human resources management.

In addition to her Point Park degrees, Gopaul earned a master’s degree in international development from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. Fluent in French and the local Mauritian dialect, Creole, she has lived and worked with her family in Mauritius, Gabon, Morocco, Switzerland and, most recently, New York. Married with two children, her husband Kishore K. Gopaul is also a graduate of Point Park and Columbia University. An accomplished classical ballet dancer, she performed with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Civic Light Opera and remains an active supporter of the arts.

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