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Diverse Commencement Speakers For 2015


Distinguished leaders from politics, business, law, literature, entertainment, sports and the civil rights movement will deliver commencement addresses to this year’s graduating college and university students. Here’s a list of some of the notable minority commencement speakers for 2015:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will serve as the main commencement speaker at Harvard University’s 364th Commencement on May 28. Patrick served two terms as the Bay State’s chief executive and won plaudits for his handling of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing’s aftermath.

Longtime civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis will address Hampton University’s 145th graduating class on May 10. Lewis is often called “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced.” Lewis will also be the commencement speaker for Elms College, which holds its graduation ceremony May 16.

Megan SmithMegan Smith

Claremont McKenna College’s Class of 2015 will hear from Iranian-born writer Azar Nafisi at their May 16 commencement. Nafisi is the author of the international bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books and a professor at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the United States and an assistant to President Obama, will send off graduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 2015 Commencement exercises on June 5. The former vice president of new business development at Google, Smith earned two degrees from MIT.

Maya RudolphMaya Rudolph Azar NafisiAzar Nafisi

Tulane University’s 2015 graduates will get to hear actress and comedian Maya Rudolph deliver the keynote commencement address on May 16. Rudolph rose to fame as a cast member of the long-running Saturday Night Live

sketch comedy series.

Sustainability thought leader Mindy S. Lubber will be the commencement speaker for Green Mountain College on May 16. Lubber founded Green Century Capital Management, a family of environmentally responsible mutual funds.

Breaking with the tradition of a single speaker, Xavier University of Louisiana invited four leaders from differing professions to address graduates at the 88th Commencement on May 9: former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu; Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian; U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; and basketball legend and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Each also will receive an honorary degree. Retiring President Dr. Norman C. Francis, a 1952 graduate of Xavier, will also address the graduates.

Mellody Hobson, president of the Chicago-based money management firm Ariel Investments, will deliver the address during the University of Southern California’s 132nd commencement ceremony on May 15. Hobson, chairwoman of DreamWorks Animation, serves on many corporate boards.

Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor Denzel Washington has the honor of delivering the commencement address at Dillard University on May 9. Washington has been a supporter of Dillard’s Theatre Program for the past 10 years.

President and CEO of the National Urban League Marc H. Morial will deliver the keynote address during Clark Atlanta University’s 2015 Commencement Convocation on May 18. And on May 29, he will also be the commencement speaker for the Louisiana State University Law Center. A lawyer, professor and former New Orleans mayor, Morial is the son of Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial ’54, LSU Law’s first African-American graduate.

Recording artist and actor Common (real name Lonnie Rashid Lynn), who co-wrote this year’s Oscar-winning Best Song “Glory” from the movie Selma, will be the speaker for Winston-Salem State University’s May 15 commencement exercises. Common founded the Common Ground Foundation, a nonprofit that exposes urban youth to new opportunities through the creative arts.

The principal speaker for Williams College’s 226th Commencement Exercise on June 7 will be Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox Corp. Burns is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving STEM education. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will be the Baccalaureate speaker on June 6.

Juliet V. GarcĂ­a, the first Hispanic woman to lead a U.S. college or university, will deliver the commencement address at Smith College on May 17. Last September, GarcĂ­a was named the inaugural executive director of the University of Texas Americas Institute.

Bryan A. Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, will address graduates during commencement ceremonies at the College of the Holy Cross on May 22. He also will be awarded an honorary degree. Stevenson, a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer, has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.

Bowie State University Class of 2015 will have U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings as their commencement speaker on May 23. Cummings is a Baltimore native who has represented Maryland’s 7th District since 1996. Bowie is the oldest historically Black university in Maryland.

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