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AU Announces 2015 Commencement Speakers

By Kelly Alexander

Students will hear from leaders in government, science, communications, business, international affairs, and law at American University's 2015 commencement ceremonies.

Students will hear from leaders in government, science, communications, business, international affairs, and law at American University's 2015 commencement ceremonies.

Leaders in communications, business, government, international affairs and the law will address more than 3,500 American University graduates at the 129th commencement ceremonies on May 9 and 10, followed by the law school ceremony on May 17.

William K. Reilly, a Senior Advisor with TPG Capital, LP and former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will address the graduates of the School of Public Affairs, 9 a.m., Saturday, May 9. Reilly has had careers in public service, non-governmental organizations, and finance including president of World Wildlife Fund; president of The Conservation Foundation; and director of the Rockefeller Task Force on Land Use and Urban Growth. Reilly will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Sheila C. Johnson, entrepreneur and philanthropist, will address the graduates of the School of Communication at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 9. She is the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and a founding partner of Black Entertainment Television. As Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Ms. Johnson is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams: the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, for which she serves as President and Managing Partner.She is a fervent supporter of education and the arts. Johnson will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Kathryn D. Sullivan, distinguished scientist and renowned astronaut, will address the graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, 7 p.m., Saturday, May 9. She currently serves as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. Sullivan previously served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Deputy Administrator, and as NOAA’s Chief Scientist. She was one of the first six women to join the NASA astronaut corps in 1978 and consequently the first American woman to walk in space. Sullivan will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree

Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman and CEO, EY, will address the graduates of the Kogod School of Business, 10 a.m., Sunday, May 10. EY is a leading global professional services organization that provides assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Weinberger previously served as the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Tax Policy) in the George W. Bush Administration. Weinberger will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Robert F. Smith, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, will address the graduates of the School of International Service, 3 p.m., Sunday, May 10. Vista currently manages equity capital commitments of more than $14 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 30 software companies. Prior to founding Vista, Mr. Smith worked for Goldman Sachs, M&A in New York and Silicon Valley. As Co-Head of Enterprise Systems and Storage, he executed and advised on more than $50B in merger and acquisition activity with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay and Yahoo. Smith is also the Chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Smith will receive an honorary Doctor of International Affairs degree.

Thomas C. Goldstein, Partner at Goldstein & Russell, PC, will address graduates of the Washington College of Law (WCL) at 1 p.m., Sunday, May 17. Goldstein is an appellate advocate, best known as one of the nation’s most experienced Supreme Court practitioners. He has prevailed in cases involving age discrimination, arbitration, bankruptcy, class actions, civil procedure, disability law, free speech, habeas corpus, immigration, labor law, privacy, securities law, and trademark law. Goldstein earned a JD from WCL in 1995 and will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

American University will also bestow upon Gary M. Abramson (BA/School of Public Affairs/1968), Partner, Tower Companies and former chair, AU Board of Trustees, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the School of Communication commencement ceremony, at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 9.

In addition to conferring honorary degrees, American University President Neil Kerwin will present the President’s Award, the highest award for undergraduate students, to a graduating senior who has displayed a longstanding commitment to building community and promoting AU’s ideals of academic achievement, integrity, selflessness, leadership, and service.

American University will confer degrees on more than 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and law school students. It is a longstanding tradition for American University to hold graduation ceremonies on Mother’s Day weekend. One week later, on Sunday, May 17, at 1 p.m., students will participate in the Washington College of Law’s graduation ceremony, also held in Bender Arena.

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

Students, alumni friends, and family will be tweeting using the hashtag #2015AUGrad. Those who cannot attend the ceremonies will be able to watch a live stream of each ceremony on AU’s commencement website.