Montverde Academy is proud to announce that Marlee Matlin, Oscar-winning actress, will deliver the Commencement Address for the Class of 2020 Commencement on May 16, 2020, in The EdgeCenter for Sportsmanship and Wellness on Montverde Academy’s campus. Philip Prescott, former Montverde Academy teacher, will deliver the Baccalaureate Address. Additionally, Ben Gulley, award-winning operatic tenor and BMI songwriter/recording artist, and Voctave, an a cappella group, will be featured performers during both the Baccalaureate and Commencement ceremonies.
Marlee Matlin has an impressive career that spans more than 40 years of being in the spotlight. Born and raised in Morton Grove, Ill., Matlin suffered an illness permanently destroyed her hearing, making her legally deaf. She learned sign language, participated in programs with the Center for Deafness, which brought deaf and hearing kids together, and fell in love with acting.
She got her big break in acting as the lead in a stage production of “Children of a Lesser God.” When the play was adapted into a movie, she reprised the roll of Sarah, a young deaf woman, who becomes involved with her speech teacher. She received critical acclaim for her motion picture debut beside William Hurt in Paramount Pictures’ “Children of a Lesser God,” to earn the Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actress in 1987.
Matlin has gone on to build an impressive list of television and film credits. She has been nominated for four Emmy awards for her appearances on “Seinfeld,” “Picket Fences,” “The Practice,” and “Law and Order: SVU.” For seven years she starred on the award-winning drama “The West Wing,” and has made appearances on “ER,” “Desperate Housewives,” “CSI: New York,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Glee,” and “Family Guy.” From 2011 to 2017, Matlin starred in the Peabody Award-winning series, “Switched at Birth,” and was a series regular on the ABC drama, “Quantico.” She has starred in numerous features including “Walker,” “The Player,” “Hear No Evil,” “It’s My Party,” and “What the Bleep Do We Know.” She is also a New York Times best-selling author of, “I’ll Scream Later,” and has written three novels for children: “Leading Ladies,” “Nobody’s Perfect,” and “Deaf Child Crossing.”
Never one to miss a challenge, Matlin broke barriers again by starring on ABC’s, “Dancing with the Stars.” In 2015, she returned to the stage after a 30-year hiatus and made her Broadway debut in the revival of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Spring Awakening.”
An advocate for the hearing-impaired community, in 2015 Matlin developed “Marlee Signs," the ﬁrst celebrity-driven app teaching basics of American Sign Language on mobile devices. In 2016, she appeared in her third Super Bowl, signing the National Anthem alongside Grammy-winning artist, Lady Gaga. Matlin has also helped raise awareness for better hearing health for millions of deaf and hard of hearing children and adults in developing countries, in support of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, and she joined President Obama in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Phil Prescott, former Montverde Academy teacher, will deliver the Baccalaureate Address. Prescott has been an educator for his entire career, teaching at a college, middle school, and high/upper school, and has also spent 20 years serving as a Protestant minister. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Asbury College and his Master of Divinity at Asbury Theological Seminary. A life-long learner, he pursued graduate studies at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla. and South University in Savannah, Ga.
Performing during the Commencement and Baccalaureate ceremonies will be Ben Gulley, an award-winning operatic tenor and BMI songwriter/recording artist. His career includes lead roles in opera, solo engagements, concert work, film work, nationwide touring, and prestigious appearances abroad from Carnegie Hall to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. He has earned numerous awards and been hailed “as an outstanding tenor − with a voice as seamless as simple speech − incredible” by Opera News. He has written and recorded his own original pop/R&B album “In Between.”
Also performing during both ceremonies will be Voctave, a Central Florida 11-member a cappella group. With Walt Disney World entertainment roots, Voctave covers all genres from gospel to contemporary Christian, musical theater to barbershop, pop and more. The group has performed with Grammy, Dove and American Music Award recipients, ranked in the top 25 on Billboard Magazine’s charts and received more than 100 million video views on Facebook and YouTube. Voctave currently has four albums that are digitally available.