Past Commencement Speakers

Each year, a commencement speaker is nominated by a committee consisting of students from the graduating class, facilitated by staff from Conference Operations and Events. Students gather suggestions from fellow class members, get input from the faculty committee that selects honorary degree recipients, and spend time narrowing the list in search of someone who will motivate and inspire them as they move forward from the accomplishments of their college years. When available, a biography and/or full text of the speaker's address is available by clicking on the speaker’s name.

  • 2019: Amy Tan
  • 2018: Celina Karp Biniaz ’52
  • 2017: Kumail Nanjiani ’01
  • 2016: Zadie Smith
  • 2015: Bill McKibben
  • 2014: Nancy Giles
  • 2013: Sarah Kay
  • 2012: Jamaica Kincaid
  • 2011: Anna Quindlen
  • 2010: Jeffrey Sachs
  • 2009: Thomas Friedman
  • 2008: Judith Butler
  • 2007: Angela Davis
  • 2006: Thomas Vilsack
  • 2005: Carol Bellamy
  • 2004: William Schulz
  • 2003: Tim Wise
  • 2002: Robert B. Reich
  • 2001: Robert P. Moses
  • 2000: Dolores Huerta
  • 1999: Fred Wertheimer
  • 1998: Joycelyn Elders
  • 1997: David McCullough
  • 1996: Ann W. Richards
  • 1995: Alan D. Wheat ’72
  • 1994: Harry Edwards
  • 1993: Linda Kaufman Kerber
  • 1992: Lanford E. Wilson
  • 1991: Bob Edwards
  • 1990: Johnnetta B. Cole
  • 1989: Geneva Overholser
  • 1988: Marian Wright Edelman
  • 1987: Hon. Mario Cuomo
  • 1986: Brian E. Urquhart
  • 1985: Judith L. Mann
  • 1984: Charlayne Hunter-Gault
  • 1983: John Kenneth Galbraith
  • 1982: Hanna Holborn Gray
  • 1981: Barry Commoner
  • 1980: Edwin Yoder
  • 1979: Jane Howard
  • 1978: Dr. Edward O. Wilson
  • 1977: Louis (Studs) Terkel
  • 1976: James Murray Kempton
  • 1975: Glenn Leggett
  • 1974: James S. Magee
  • 1973: Joseph F. Wall 1941
  • 1972: R. Buckminster Fuller
  • 1971: Bayless A. Manning
  • 1970: No Commencement
  • 1969: Harold E. Hughes
  • 1968: Barry Commoner
  • 1967: George McGovern
  • 1966: E. Wilson Lyon
  • 1965: Helen C. White
  • 1964: Eugene J. McNeely
  • 1963: Arnold J. Toynbee
  • 1962: Harry S. Ashmore
  • 1961: Allan Nevins
  • 1960: Theodore O. Yntema
  • 1959: Carl C. Compton
  • 1958: Edward R. Murrow
  • 1957: Hon. Raymond A. Hare
  • 1956: Hon. Donald A. Quarles
  • 1955: John Cowles
  • 1954: Thurgood Marshall
  • 1953: Truman B. Douglass
  • 1952: Carl Joachim Friedrich
  • 1951: Detley Wulf Bronk
  • 1950: James Francis Cooke
  • 1949: Forrest W. Seymour
  • 1948: Neal W. Klausner
  • 1947: Stuart Gerry Brown
  • 1946: Pres. Samuel N. Stevens
  • 1945: Donald J. Cowling
  • 1944: Harry S. Truman
  • 1943: Harold Dewey Smith
  • 1942: Henry Robinson Luce
  • 1941: Chester Davis
  • 1940: Eduard C. Lindeman
  • 1939: Frederick H. Bair 1912
  • 1938: Charles P. Megan
  • 1937: Robert Lincoln O'Brien
  • 1936: Thomas Vernor Smith
  • 1935: His Excellency Sao-Ke Alfred Sze
  • 1934: Albert Shaw 1879
  • 1933: Dean Charles R. Brown
  • 1932: Hon. Frank Orren Lowden
  • 1931: Harry Waldo Norris
  • 1930: Dr. Charles Clayton Morrison
  • 1929: Salmon Oliver Levinson
  • 1928: Dr. James L. Barton
  • 1927: George Grafton Wilson
  • 1926: Eugene A. Noble
  • 1925: Samuel Strauss
  • 1924: Jane Addams
  • 1923: Rev. Newton Marshall Hall
  • 1922: Dr. W. F. Slocum
  • 1921: Dr. Max Farrand
  • 1920: Walter George Smith
  • 1919: Hon. Henry Morgenthau
  • 1918: Albert Shaw 1879
  • 1917: Hon. Theodore Marburg
  • 1916: Dr. James A. MacDonald
  • 1915: Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus
  • 1914: Rev. Raymond Calkins
  • 1913: Rev. Walter Rauschenbusch
  • 1912: William Allen White
  • 1911: Harry Pratt Judson
  • 1910: Pres. George A. Gates (Fisk U.)
  • 1909: Hon. Joseph W. Folk
  • 1908: Samuel Train Dutton
  • 1907: Prof. E. A. Ross
  • 1906: Rev. Stephen G. Barnes
  • 1905: William G. Ballantine
  • 1904: J. Irving Manatt
  • 1903: Frank O. Lowden
  • 1902: Josiah Royce
  • 1901: Dr. Emil G. Hirsch
  • 1900: George E. MacLean
  • 1899: S. M. Jones
  • 1898: Albert Shaw 1879
  • 1897: Paul Shorey
  • 1896: Henry Carter Adams 1874
  • 1895: Dr. Henry Demarest Lloyd
  • 1894: Rev. Joseph T. Duryea

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