Every School’s Graduation Speaker: A Long List [UPDATED]

It took quite awhile to compile this list, but here goes. The list is always being updated and is in no particular order, so you might want to do the ol’ CTRL+F to find the school or speaker you’re interested in. Who is your favorite commencement / graduation speaker?

Boston University

Eric Holder is the 82nd and current Attorney General of the United States and the first African American to hold the position.  He is serving under President Barack Obama. Announced 4/30/10.


CBS Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer, NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo, Republic of Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Schapiro are among the nine speakers slated for Georgetown’s 2010 commencement. Also speaking at the May 20-23 commencement exercises are parasitologist Dr. David Molyneux; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. JonesDr. Reed Tuckson, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group; CEO Shelia C. Johnson; and British Supreme Court Justice and Baroness Brenda Hale. Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, will speak at the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony.


Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent with CNN and anchor of the daily interview program ‘Amanpour,’ has been selected as the 2010 Senior Class Day speaker. She will address Harvard College graduates and their guests on May 26 at 2 p.m. in Tercentenary Theatre in Harvard Yard. (Harvard Gazette, 02/17/10)
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David H. Souter, a native New Englander and Harvard alumnus who served nearly two decades on the U.S. Supreme Court before stepping down in 2009, will be the principal speaker at the Afternoon Exercises of Harvard’s 359th Commencement. (Harvard Gazette, 02/08/10)
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Martha Nussbaum specializes in moral and political philosophy as well as ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. Sher serves as the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago and speaks and writes about the nature and importance of the liberal arts.

Nussbaum, who holds degrees from New York University and Harvard University, will be awarded an honorary degree from Colgate officials.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. in Sanford Field House.


Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive officer of American Express Company, will deliver the Northeastern University commencement address to the Class of 2010 on May 7, 2010, at TD Garden.


By tradition, Yale does not have a Commencement speaker, although an exception is made when a sitting president is awarded an honorary degree, as was the case in 2001. Class Day, which takes place the Sunday before Commencement, features a notable speaker chosen with suggestions from the senior class. Recent Class Day speakers have included Christopher Buckley, Tony Blair, Fareed Zakaria, Anderson Cooper, Ken Burns, Tom Friedman, George Pataki, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Boston College Law School

Senator Scott (R-MA) Brown will speak here.

Nichols College

Senator Scott (R-MA) Brown will also speak here.

Iowa College of Law

David Wilkins, the Lester Kissel Professor of Law at HLS, has been selected to be the 2009 commencement speaker at the University of Iowa College of Law’s graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 16.

The director of the Program on the Legal Profession at HLS, Wilkins was selected for the honor by students and faculty in recognition of his study of the legal profession.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons won’t have to travel far to deliver this year’s commencement address at one of the nation’s top design schools on June 5. Simmons, president of Brown since 2001, has been asked to speak at the 127th commencement of the Rhode Island School of Design, which shares the College Hill neighborhood with Brown and typically hosts the most festive graduation ceremony in the state. (read more here)


Denver Mayor and Colorado gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper ‘74 will deliver the commencement address at the university’s 178th Commencement in May. Wesleyan will award honorary degrees to Mayor Hickenlooper; Stanley Cavell, distinguished philosopher and professor emeritus at Harvard; Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University; and Richard K. Winslow, Wesleyan class of 1940 and professor of music emeritus. (more here)

Vanderbilt University

Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns

Western Connecticut State University

Wyclef Jean, musician and producer

Vassar College

Lisa Kudrow, actress

Stanford University

Susan E. Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

Marquette University

Wendy Kopp, founder and chief executive of Teach for America

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Al Gore, environmental leader and 45th vice president

Grinnell College

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University (The End of Poverty)

University of Notre Dame

Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News”

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

President  Obama

The George Washington University

First Lady Michelle Obama

Brown University

excerpt from the Blog Daily Herald: “Unlike most colleges and universities, Brown imports no Commencement speaker for the College ceremonies,” according to the university’s Commencement website (though we’ve ‘exported’: President Simmons has given commencement speech at multiple campuses). Last year, we got journo Fareed Zakaria for the baccalaureate address, (which is apparently very similar to, but not the same thing as, commencement?!), and the year before that it was Dave Eggers. This year’s speaker — who addresses only graduating seniors in a small ceremony, rather than the whole mess of PhDs, MDs, and family and friends at the big Commencement — has yet to be announced.

Liberty University

Fox News host Glenn Beck, the outspoken and confrontational media darling of working-class conservatism, will give the commencement speech at Liberty University on May 15, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said.

Martha Nussbaum specializes in moral and political philosophy as well as ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. Sher serves as the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago and speaks and writes about the nature and importance of the liberal arts.

Nussbaum, who holds degrees from New York University and Harvard University, will be awarded an honorary degree from Colgate officials.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. in Sanford Field House.

New York University (NYU)

Alec Baldwin will make an appearance at the class of 2010’s commencement. Alec Baldwin will speak at the commencement on May 12.


Tulane University

In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, Anderson Cooper‘s impassioned reporting from New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast riveted viewers to their television sets. On Tuesday, April 29, the CNN anchor returns to New Orleans to speak at Tulane about those experiences as a kind of exclamation point to the academic year. Anderson Cooper puts an exclamation point on the end of the semester. “Anderson Cooper is speaking on the final day of classes; our goal was to mark the end of the semester,” says Tim Clinton, chair of the Tulane University Campus Programming Lyceum committee, which is cosponsoring the event with the Direction Lecture series. Cooper will speak at McAlister Auditorium on Tulane’s uptown campus at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Curt Schilling, retired Red Sox pitcher, philanthropist, and founder of 38 Studios, a video game development company, will deliver the address at the university’s 142nd commencement exercises on Saturday, May 15, the university announced today.

Trinity College

The Commencement speaker will be Lorraine Monroe, Ed.D., a highly respected and inspirational educator and author. Now the executive director and founder of the School Leadership Academy at the Center for Educational Innovation in New York City, Monroe served as the founding principal of the Frederick Douglass Academy for College and Professional Careers in Harlem, NY, from 1991-1996. Her experience at the Douglass Academy served as the basis for her book, Nothing Impossible: Leadership Lessons from Inside and Outside the Classroom, published in 1997. Monroe will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Also receiving an honorary degree will be S. Chusang Rinpoche (a rinpoche is a Tibetan lama). Rinpoche, spiritual leader of the World Buddhist Cultural Exchange in South Korea and vice president of the international organization of Gelugpa, the dominate Buddhist sect in Tibet and Mongolia, will be the speaker at the College’s Baccalaureate, which will take place on the morning of May 23 prior to Commencement. At Commencement, Rinpoche will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

In recognition of the efforts of the Classes of 2009 in ushering in a new era of environmental responsibility at Hobart and William Smith, it was recently announced that Carol M. Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change in the Obama Administration, will deliver the Commencement Address Sunday, May 17 on the Hobart Quad.

Recently referred to as the energy “czarina” by TIME magazine, Browner is the nation’s first Energy Coordinator and is responsible for overseeing and integrating all of the various U.S. government energy and climate committees and organizations. She works with the U.S. Secretaries of Energy and Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator and is a close advisor to President Obama. A member of the Transition Board for President-elect Obama, she was previously the longest serving administrator in the history of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Boston College

The university will be holding its 134th Commencement Exercises on Monday, May 24 at Alumni Stadium. Some 3000 grads and their guests will hear Jeffrey Immelt, CEO and Chair of General Electric, give the commencement address.

Cornell University

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has been invited to speak at Cornell’s commencement on May 29, two weeks after addressing grads at Mills College in Oakland, CA.

George Washington University

The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, will be the commencement speaker when GWU holds it ceremony on May 16 on the National Mall.

Johnson C. Smith University

Former US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, will be the commencement speaker at JCSU on May 2. Rice’s father, John, was a 1946 graduate of the school. Since leaving government service, Dr. Rice has returned to Stanford where she is a political professor and senior fellow.

Lehigh University

Elie Wiesel, historian and author will speak at Lehigh’s 142nd graduation ceremony on May 24. Wiesel, who is probably best known for Night, a book about his personal experience in Nazi death camps in Germany, is also a professor at Boston University.

Shaw University

Comedian and actor Bill Cosby will speak to Shaw graduates at Dorton Arena in Raleigh on May 8. Shaw is the oldest historically black college in the south, founded in 1865.

Syracuse University

The Carrier Dome will be the setting for graduating Orangmen on May 16 with Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the invited speaker. The global services company is one of the largest of its kind with assets over $2 trillion.

Texas A&M University

General George Petraeus will speak to Aggie grads and guests on May 13 at Reed Arena. Commencement starts at 5:30 p.m.. Petraeus is the top U.S. commander in the war against terrorism in the Middle East and Central Asia.

University of Oklahoma

Doris Kearns Goodwin whose book on the life of Abraham Lincoln was a chart topper, has been invited to speak at the Sooner’s grad celebration. The commencement will be held on May 14 at 7 p.m., at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Goodwin is also a Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian.


Victoria Reggie Kennedy will be the principal speaker at commencement ceremonies for the University of Massachusetts Boston on June 4. Kennedy will also accept an honorary degree from Lesley University on behalf of her late husband, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who will be honored at their commencement ceremony on May 19 for his life of public service.


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be the commencement speaker at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s ceremonies on May 29.


Sheila C. Bair, head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., will speak at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s May 15 commencement.

Smith College

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow will speak at Smith College’s May 16 commencement.

Bentley University

CNBC host Suze Orman will speak at Bentley University’s undergraduate commencement on May 15. Jack W. Cumming, the chairman and executive officer of the Board of Hologic Inc., will speak at the graduate commencement the same day.

Framingham State College (MA)

Governor Deval Patrick will speak at Framingham State College’s commencement on May 16. Patrick delivered the commencement address at Wheaton College last May.

Wentworth Institute of Technology

Architect Michael Maltzan will deliver the commencement address at Wentworth Institute of Technology’s May 16 commencement.

More names will be added as they’re sent in!