Celebrities, Leaders Speaking at UNCF-Member HBCU Commencements | UNCF

Celebrities, Leaders Speaking at UNCF-Member HBCU Commencements

UNCF congratulates the Class of 2019!

Featured 2019 Commencement Speakers at UNCF-Member Institutions


April 27

Lane College: Lamman Rucker 
Actor Rucker was cast as one of the leads in the Oprah Winfrey Network drama series, “Greenleaf” in 2015. He plays Jacob Greenleaf, the eldest son of Lynn Whitfield and Keith David’s characters.

May 4

Bennett College: Kwanza Jones
Kwanza Jones is the co-founder and CEO of the Kwanza Jones & José E. Feliciano SUPERCHARGED Initiative, a philanthropic grant-making and impact investment organization, making a lasting effect across four key areas: education, entrepreneurship, equal opportunity and empowerment.

Morris College: Lieutenant General Bruce T. Crawford
Crawford became the Army Chief Information Officer in August 2017, where he oversees the Army’s $10 billion information technology (IT) investments, manages enterprise IT architecture, establishes and enforces IT policies and directs delivery of operational C4IT capabilities to support warfighters and business users. As the G-6 he also advises the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army on the network, communications, signal operations, information security and force structure.

Philander Smith College: Laz Alonso
The award-winning actor and producer is known for playing Tsu’tey in James Cameron’s science fiction film Avatar and Fenix Calderon in the film Fast & Furious.

Voorhees College: The Reverend Al Sharpton
Sharpton has spent more than four decades serving as a civil rights leader, minister and advocate, and is one of the most prominent activists in the country.

May 5

Paine College: Bakari Sellers
Bakari Sellers, currently a CNN political commentator,  made history in 2006 when, at just 22 years old, he defeated a 26-year incumbent state representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation.

Talladega College: Essye B. Miller
The Senior Executive Service member and cybersecurity expert currently serves as the principal deputy, U.S. Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (DoD CIO). She assists the DoD CIO as the primary advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Defense for Information Management/Information Technology and Information Assurance, as well as non-intelligence space systems; critical satellite communications, navigation, and timing programs; spectrum; and telecommunications.

Tougaloo College: Stacey Abrams
Abrams has become a national star in the Democratic Party since narrowly losing her historic bid last fall to become the country’s first black woman governor.

Wiley College: Angela Rye
Angela Rye is an attorney and the Principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy firm in Washington, DC. She is a liberal political commentator on CNN and an NPR political analyst, and served as the executive director and general counsel to the Congressional Black Caucus for the 112th Congress.

May 6

Fisk University: The Reverend Al Sharpton 
Sharpton has spent more than four decades serving as a civil rights leader, minister and advocate, and is one of the most prominent activists in the country.

May 11

Benedict College: Dr. Bobby Donaldson
The civil rights historian leads the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at the University of South Carolina.

Bethune-Cookman University:  Benjamin Crump, Esq.; Johanna Leblanc, Esq.
Internationally-renown civil rights attorney Crump will provide the morning commencement address. Foreign policy and national security legal professional—and BCU alumnus—Leblanc will deliver the afternoon commencement keynote.

Clafin University: Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, President, Claflin
Magna cum laude graduate of Claflin University, Dr. Henry N. Tisdale is widely recognized as an extraordinary and visionary leader, who presided over a period of phenomenal transformation at Claflin University. During more than two decades of leadership, the University has gained state, regional and national recognition for academic excellence, increased enrollment, and enhancements of both its physical infrastructure and research capacity.

Dillard University: Regina Hall
Award-winning actress Regina Hall will deliver the keynote speech. Hall is the first African American woman to win the New York Film Critics Circle choice for Best Actress for the 2018 comedy film “Support the Girls.” Hall most recently executive produced ​“Little” for Universal Studios, alongside “​Girls Trip” producer Will Packer, “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris and actress Marsai Martin.

Edward Waters College: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
Dr. Kendi is an award-winning historian, New York Times best-selling author, and 2016 National Book Award winner. Kendi is a professor of history and director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC.

Florida Memorial University: Colonel (Retired) Norma Ely-Jones (’86)
FMU alumna Ely-Jones was one of the first two graduates to earn a bachelor’s degree in the aviation science program. She is currently working as the air traffic manager at Andrews Air Traffic Control Tower on Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland; and is responsible for all departures and arrivals of the president, the vice president, their families and all distinguished visitors to Washington.

Huston-Tillotson University: Michele Thornton Ghee
Ghee is an author and Executive Vice President of Business Development for Endeavor Global Marketing; she has managed over $1 billion in revenue for some of the biggest media companies in the world,

Interdenominational Theological Center: Rev. Judge Penny Brown Reynolds
Reynolds, former jurist, public theologian, and 2008 graduate of ITC will be the 2019 commencement speaker. She will be recognized for her work with and concern for children, families and marginalized women with an Honorary Degree.

LeMoyne-Owen College: Lamman Rucker
Rucker was cast as one of the leads in the Oprah Winfrey Network drama series, “Greenleaf” in 2015. He plays Jacob Greenleaf, the eldest son of Lynn Whitfield and Keith David’s characters.

Shaw University: Everette Taylor
Taylor has gained success as a serial entrepreneur, marketing executive, and public speaker. As CEO of ET Enterprises, Taylor oversees a diverse portfolio of companies that include PopSocial, MilliSense, ArtX, Southside Fund, Hayver and GrowthHackers.

Tuskegee University: Loretta Lynch
Lynch was the nation’s first female African American U.S. attorney general. A leading progressive voice during her 30-plus-year highly distinguished career, Lynch was appointed at the 83rd U.S. attorney general by President Barack Obama in April 2015 and served in this capacity until January 2017.  She also served as head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York twice, under both Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama.

Virginia Union University: Danny Glover
Award-winning actor, producer, humanitarian, Glover, whose film credits include the blockbuster Lethal Weapon franchise, and Oscar-nominated films The Color Purple and Dreamgirls, will deliver the 120th commencement address. He will also receive an honorary degree, doctor of humane letters, for his stellar work in the performing arts as well as being an outspoken advocate for human rights.

Xavier University of Louisiana: Dr. Pierre Johnson ’02, Dr. Maxime Madhere ’02, and Dr. Joseph Semien ’01
The physicians—Xavier graduates—are co-authors of the book Pulse of Perseverance, in which they share their personal struggles and ultimate triumphs in an effort to empower and inspire black youth to work towards their goals.


May 19

Johnson C. Smith University: Ralph H. Groce, III
Groce serves as the chief information officer and senior vice president at Everest Global Services.

Morehouse College: Robert F. Smith
Smith is one of the most prominent and successful investors of the 21st century. Smith’s firm, Vista Equity Partners, which he founded in 2000 and built into a billion-dollar enterprise, is an international leader in software and technology investments that currently manages equity capital commitments of more than $46 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 50 software companies employing 60,000 people worldwide.

Spelman College: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Bottoms is the 60th and current Mayor of Atlanta, GA. Prior to becoming mayor, she was a member of the Atlanta City Council, representing part of Southwest Atlanta.

May 20

Clark Atlanta University: Andrew Gillum
Gillum is a politician who served as the 126th mayor of Tallahassee, FL, from 2014 to 2018. A member of the Democratic Party, he was its nominee for governor of Florida in the 2018 election.


Tagged as: Benedict College Bennett College Bethune-Cookman University Claflin University Clark Atlanta University Dillard University Edward Waters College Fisk University Florida Memorial University Huston-Tillotson University Interdenominational Theological Center Johnson C. Smith University Lane College LeMoyne-Owen College Morehouse College Morris College Paine College Philander Smith College Shaw University Spelman College Talladega College Tougaloo College Tuskegee University Virginia Union University Voorhees College Wiley College Xavier University of Louisiana Feature Article News Member HBCUs Uncategorized