Leaders, Celebrities Speaking at UNCF-Member HBCU Commencements

UNCF congratulates the Class of 2018!

Featured 2018 Commencement Speakers at UNCF-Member Institutions                            

April 17

Jarvis Christian College: Kevin W. Williams
Mr. Kevin W. Williams is former Board Chairman, President and Managing Director of General Motors (GM) of Canada Ltd. He is currently Vice Chairman and board member of UNCF and Trustee of the Tennessee State University Foundation. 


April 28

Lane College: Van Jones
Van Jones, political contributor and host of CNN’s #1-rated television program, “The Van Jones Show,” will be the guest speaker at the Lane College’s Spring Commencement Convocation. 


April 29

Rust College: Ruth Simmons, Ph.D.
Simmons, currently president of Prairie View A&M, made history when she became the first Black woman to become the president of an Ivy League school. Simmons’ first presidency was at Smith College, which began in 1995. From 2001-2012, she served as the president of Brown University for over a decade.


May 5

Bethune-Cookman University: U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings and Henry Thomas
Spring Commencement 2018 will be held at the Mary McLeod Performing Arts Center. The University will host two ceremonies at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The 9 a.m. commencement speaker will be U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings. At the 3 p.m. ceremony, U.S. entrepreneur and civil rights activist Henry "Hank" Thomas will give the keynote address. Thomas was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, who traveled on buses through the South in 1961 to protest racial segregation.

Bennett College: April Ryan
April Ryan, a White House correspondent who works for Urban Radio Networks and routinely challenges the administration in daily press briefings, is Bennett College’s 2018 Commencement speaker.

Miles College: Dr. Mae C. Jemison
A physician, engineer, educator, entrepreneur and the first African American female astronaut , Dr. Jemison is currently leading 100 Year Starship, a global initiative seed funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to ensure the capability for interstellar human space flight by 2112. 

Morris College: Loretta E. Lynch 
The Honorable Loretta E. Lynch served as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States. Under her leadership, the Department of Justice focused extensively on national security and terrorism, corruption both domestic and international, human trafficking, and improving the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. 

Talladega College: William F. Pickard, Ph.D. 
A prominent business leader, best-selling author and esteemed philanthropist, Dr. Pickard serves as chairman of Global Automotive Alliance (GAA), which has generated over $5 billion dollars in sales. He is also co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino; CEO of Bearwood Management Company; and co-owner of five black-owned newspapers. 

Wiley College: David Beckley, Ph.D.
David L. Beckley, the longest tenured senior college president in Mississippi, was appointed president of Rust College in Holly Springs, MS, in 1993. Before assuming the position as 11th president of Rust College, he served as 12th president of Wiley College, 1987-1993.


May 12

Clafin University: April Ryan
Since 1997, April Ryan has served as a White House correspondent and is the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks. In 2017, she joined CNN as a political analyst. In May 2017, the National Association of Black Journalists named Ryan as the "Journalist of the Year.” Her first book, The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America, was published in 2015 and won an NAACP Image Award. Her second book, At Mama's Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White, was published in 2016. Her work has also appeared in Politico. Her blog, Fabric of America, is devoted to minority issues and stories in the United States.

Dillard University: Chance the Rapper 
The rapper, a three-time Grammy Award winner, will deliver the commencement address at Dillard University in New Orleans on May 12. Chance will speak at the school’s Avenue of the Oaks.

Interdenominational Theological Center: Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III 
Pastor of the nationally renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and President of State University of New York at Old Westbury, Dr. Butts will deliver ITC's keynote address.

Tuskegee University: Barron M. Witherspoon Sr.
Witherspoon is a 1985 Tuskegee University graduate and Procter & Gamble Co.’s global vice president for industry affairs.

Xavier University of Louisana: Nikole Hannah-Jones 
Jones is an Award-winning investigative journalist has been a staff writer for The New York Times since 2015. She is known for her long-form writing style and her investigative coverage of civil rights, education, fair housing, school segregation, and discrimination in the United States.