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Commencement Boasts a Stellar Line Up of Speakers

Leaders in journalism, communications, politics, foreign diplomacy, and business will address American University’s graduates at the 128th commencement ceremonies.

Leaders in journalism, communications, politics, foreign diplomacy, and business will address American University’s graduates at the 128th commencement ceremonies.

Leaders in journalism and politics, a healthcare services CEO, a seasoned American diplomat, a White House executive, and a nationally known crisis communications expert will address American University’s graduates at the 128th commencement ceremonies on May 10 and 11, followed by the law school ceremony on May 18.

Five of the six speakers are women. Two are American University alumni—one graduated from the Kogod School of Business and the other from the Washington College of Law.  

Katie Couric, an award-winning journalist and TV personality, will address graduates of the School of Communication at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 10. Known for being the first female solo anchor of an evening broadcast and her devotion to cancer research, she is currently the global anchor for Yahoo! News and the host of the daily talk show Katie. Couric will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Paul J. Diaz (Kogod/BSBA'84) will speak to the graduates of the Kogod School of Business at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 10. Named by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the most powerful people in healthcare, Diaz serves as the chief executive officer of Kindred Healthcare, Inc., one of the largest providers of healthcare services in the country and is a 1984 alumnus of AU’s Kogod School of Business. Diaz will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Paula J. Dobriansky, the longest-tenured under secretary of state in history anda specialist in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, is a recipient of the secretary of state’s Distinguished Service Medal and is known for her contributions to the historic devolution of power in Belfast, Ireland. At 4:30 p.m., Saturday, May 10 she will speak to the School of International Service graduates. Dobriansky will receive an honorary Doctor International Affairs degree.

Gwen Ifill is moderator and managing editor of PBS’s Washington Week and co-anchor and managing editor of PBS Newshour. She has covered seven presidential campaigns and is the best-selling author of The Breakthrough: Politics and the Race in the Age of Obama. Ifill will speak at the School of Public Affairs ceremony at 9 a.m., Sunday, May 11. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Cecilia Muñoz, assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council will speak at 1 p.m., Sunday, May 11 at the College of Arts and Sciences ceremony. For more than twenty years, Muñoz supervised the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organizations, the National Council of La Raza, covering a number of issues that include civil rights, employment, farm worker issues and immigration. Muñoz will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Judy A. Smith (WCL/JD ’86), founder and president of Smith & Company, a leading strategic crisis communications firm, will speak to graduates at the Washington College of Law ceremony at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 18. Smith, a WCL 1986 graduate, serves clients facing a range of domestic and international challenges with legal and political insight. She has handled historic events such as the Iran Contra investigation, the Los Angeles riots and the Congressional inquiry of Enron. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

More information on the speakers is available on AU’s commencement website.

In addition to conferring honorary degrees, American University President Neil Kerwin will present the President’s Award, the highest award for undergraduate students, to graduating senior Alexis Dobbs.

American University will confer degrees on more than 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and law school students. More than 2,500 will participate in the commencement events on Saturday, May 10, and Sunday, May 11, in American University’s Bender Arena. It is a longstanding tradition for American University to hold graduation ceremonies on Mother’s Day weekend. One week later, on Sunday, May 18, at 1 p.m., students will participate in the Washington College of Law’s graduation ceremony, also held in Bender Arena.

Students, alumni friends, and family will be tweeting using the hashtag #2014AUGrad. Those who cannot attend the ceremonies will be able to watch a live stream of each ceremony on the American University commencement website.