Who’s speaking at Philly-area commencement ceremonies? Here’s the list.
Temple, Drexel and University of the Arts scored some big names for graduation this year.
Scroll through our full list of commencement speakers, or click on a commencement date below to see who is speaking at each school.
Folks at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia are pumped: They scored Questlove, the West Philadelphia-born musician and award-winning filmmaker, as one of their commencement speakers — fresh from the Oscars.
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the Roots drummer and bandleader of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon who attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, just won the 2021 Best Documentary Feature Oscar for his Summer of Soul.
The university announced its lineup to the school community Monday.
And he’s just one of the big names scheduled to speak to graduates at area college commencements this month and next. Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winners, several star basketball coaches, prominent business leaders, and even the president of the United States are among the speakers scheduled to appear at commencements, beginning Thursday with Temple University’s celebration and concluding June 9 at Drexel.
While some schools have more than one speaker, others don’t bring any guests to campus. At Widener University, outgoing President Julie E. Wollman will address the class, while La Salle, West Chester and Manor will feature student speakers.
Here’s a look at the lineup at four-year schools so far:
Temple University: American Basketball Hall of Fame player and coach Dawn Staley, and Ken Frazier, executive chair and former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Merck. Staley, a North Philadelphia native, has three Olympic gold medals and is a former coach of Temple’s women’s basketball team. She currently is head coach for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Penn State Abington: Ameen I. Akbar, an alumnus and founder of the iAkbar Group, a consulting group.
Rowan University: Dennis W. Pullin, president and CEO of Virtua Health.
Eastern University: Bill Golderer, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
Cheyney University: The Hon. Cynthia Baldwin, one of the first African American women to serve on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and former general counsel to Pennsylvania State University.
Pennsylvania State University: There are speakers for many of the school’s commencements over the two days, including visual artist Dread Scott for the College of Arts and Architecture; Don Roy King, former director of Saturday Night Live and a Penn State alumnus for the college of communications; Stefen Wisniewski, former Nittany Lion football player and retired NFL offensive lineman, at the College of Education; Faheemah Mustafaa, a Penn State alumna and assistant professor at the University of California, Davis at the college of health and human development.
Stockton University: New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Brian K. Bridges
Villanova University: The school’s retiring men’s basketball coach Jay Wright. The winningest coach in Villanova’s history, Wright led the Wildcats to two NCAA national championships, in 2016 and 2018, and in the most recent season, the team made it to the Final Four.
Haverford College: Civil rights advocate Karen Korematsu, founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute. The institute was named for her late father, who refused to go to the government’s incarceration camp for Japanese Americans in 1942. After being arrested for his refusal, he battled all the way to the Supreme Court.
Bryn Mawr College: Cultural historian and cookbook author Jessica B. Harris, a 1968 graduate of the college. Among her work are 12 cookbooks on the foods of the African Diaspora.
Neumann University: John McConnell, founder and president emeritus of Cristo Rey Philadelphia High Schoo, and Sister Marguerite O’Beirne, former vice president for mission and ministry at the university.
Delaware Valley University: Longtime Philadelphia basketball coach Phil Martelli, who led St. Joseph’s University’s men’s team to prominence. He coached the Hawks 34 years and now is associate head coach for the Michigan Wolverines.
Rosemont College: David Gould, chief diversity and impact officer at Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment.
Franklin and Marshall College: Author Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose 2015 novel, The Sympathizer, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Ursinus College: Muralist Katie Merz, and Vai Sikahema, a former Philadelphia Eagle and longtime Philadelphia broadcaster for NBC 10 Philadelphia. Merz recently completed a 12-story, 120-foot smokestack tower mural on Ursinus’ campus. Titled Live the Questions, it illustrates the impact of the pandemic and racial injustice.
Gwynedd Mercy University: Philanthropist Leigh Middleton, whose philanthropic work with Project HOME has targeted homelessness in the Philadelphia region.
Immaculata University: Norma Hall Brown, a 1985 graduate and the first African American licensed optician in Fairfield County, Conn. She has traveled to Mexico to give eyeglasses to children in need and has served as a volunteer in a community in Kenya.
Lincoln University: Tricia Rose, a scholar of post-civil rights-era Black U.S. culture.
Rutgers-New Brunswick: David Remnick, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, and editor of the New Yorker.
Moore College of Art & Design: Ximena Varela, president of the Association of Arts Administration Educators and associate professor and director of the arts management program at American University. She was the first person to assist national museums in Uruguay, her native country, with earned-income models. She also has championed inclusive practice and diverse leadership in arts organizations.
University of Pennsylvania: Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who has received 16 Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Oscar nominations for his work, which includes The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, Brooklyn Bridge, Jackie Robinson, Country Music, The Vietnam War, The Central Park Five, and most recently Benjamin Franklin.
Rutgers-Camden: Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project who currently is the Knight chair in race and journalism at Howard University’s School of Communications.
University of the Arts: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Aaron Dessner, a founding member of the rock band the National who has collaborated with Taylor Swift on her albums Folklore and Evermore.
Arcadia University: Poet, activist, and scholar Sonia Sanchez.
Lafayette College: Chip Bergh, a 1979 graduate who is president and chief executive officer of Levi Strauss & Co.
St. Joseph’s University: Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. (C. Kevin Carroll, a 1997 graduate, founder of Katalyst LLC and an author, will speak to the class of 2020 graduates.)
Holy Family: Carol Taylor, a former faculty member in the School of Nursing & Health Sciences, and the Rev. Luis Cortés Jr., a prominent Latino figure nationally and founder, president and CEO of Philly’s Esperanza.
Swarthmore College: There are four.: Immigration law scholar T. Alexander Aleinikoff, ‘74; Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Marshall Curry, ‘92; Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green, ‘92; and ballet dancer Virginia Johnson.
Cabrini University: Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.
Muhlenberg College: Pulmonologist and bioethicist Benjamin Wilfond, class of ‘81.
Princeton University: Alumna Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America and cofounder and CEO of Teach For All.
Dickinson College: Clarence Page, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and nationally syndicated columnist who is a member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.
Lehigh University: Judy Marks, an alumna and chair, CEO and president of Otis Worldwide Corp., the elevator and escalator manufacturer.
University of the Sciences: Ala Stanford, a Montgomery County physician who founded the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium during the pandemic and who was recently appointed by President Biden as a regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services.
University of Delaware: President Joe Biden, an alumnus of the university.