After an eight-month selection process, a non profit founder, a prominent health policy researcher, the Lithuanian president and a U.S. senator will speak at commencement ceremonies tomorrow for Georgetown’s 1,500 graduating seniors.
Each undergraduate college is responsible for securing its own commencement speaker, and this process varies across schools. However, nominations are generally made by faculty members of each of Georgetown’s schools to the deans of the respective department. These are then reviewed and forwarded to the university’s board of directors for approval.
The process of securing commencement speakers begins as early as September of the year preceding the May graduation ceremony. Schools propose primary candidates and as many as two alternate speakers in the September or December meetings of the faculty senate.
Georgetown generally confers honorary degrees upon its commencement speakers. It is against university policy to pay a speaker’s fee or honoraria to honorary degree recipients except under unusual circumstances not specified in the university’s policy. This practice is in stark contrast to other schools that reportedly spend between $5,000 and $50,000 to secure commencement speakers. Universities — Georgetown included — are generally reluctant to discuss such arrangements.
“Our commencement speakers this year are extraordinary individuals, representing the highest levels of excellence in a diverse array of fields — from public service to public health, education, economics and humanitarian endeavors,” University President John J. DeGioia said in a statement. “By sharing their experience and wisdom, they offer inspiration to our students, who are themselves, at this moment in their lives, envisioning the impact they can make in our world.”
U.S. Senator William Cowan (D-Mass.), who was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to fill U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s vacant senate seat in January, will be speaking at the McDonough School of Business commencement ceremony.
Cowan previously worked as Patrick’s chief of staff and as a lawyer focused on corporate governance, financial management, the environment, patents and consumer protection. He now serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
“I’m thrilled to have the chance to speak this weekend to graduates of Georgetown University’s McDonough Undergraduate School of Business and their families,” Cowan told The Hoya. “As the graduates enter life after college, they now have the exciting opportunity to add wisdom to their accumulated knowledge; they have the opportunity to be defined not only by their net-worth but most importantly by their self-worth. By exercise of wisdom and attention to self-worth, these graduates will leave their mark on the world.”
Cowan will also give the commencement address at Boston College Law School on May 24.
Addressing the School of Nursing and Health Studies is AcademyHealth President and CEO Lisa Simpson, a pediatrician and nationally recognized health policy researcher. AcademyHealth’s mission includes educating consumers and policymakers about health services, fundraising and providing professional development opportunities. Before joining the nonprofit, Simpson served as the director of the Child Policy Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and professor of pediatrics in the Division of Health Policy and Clinical Effectiveness in the Department of Pediatrics at University of Cincinnati.
“I am so honored to be the commencement speaker for the School of Nursing and Health Studies. The school’s graduates are entering the field at a seminal moment in our history. From health reform to patient engagement and health information technologies to biomedical innovations, we are entering a period of explosive opportunity,” Simpson told The Hoya.
Speaking at the Georgetown College commencement ceremony this year is Lisa Shannon, founder of Run for Congo Women, grassroots effort Sister Somalia and advocacy organization A Thousand Sisters. Through Run for Congo Women, Shannon has raised $12 million for women in the Democratic Republic of Congo and sponsored more than 1,400 Congolese women financially and through leadership and rights awareness training.
A Thousand Sisters furthers the mission of Run for Congo Women by focusing on increasing awareness of violence in the Congo through dialogue and fundraising efforts, while Sister Somalia is the first rape and hotline support program in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite (GRD ’92) will be addressing School of Foreign Service graduates. After completing a six-month program for senior executives at Georgetown, Grybauskaite served as Lithuania’s deputy finance minister from 1999 to 2000, deputy foreign minister from 2000 to 2001, and finance minister from 2001 to 2004. She became the European Union commissioner responsible for financial programming and the budget in 2004 and took office as president of Lithuania in July 2009.
Grybauskaite, who was named Glamour magazine’s woman of the year in 2010, is the first female president of her country and has become famous for focusing on domestic issues, especially poverty and national financial problems.
All of this year’s graduation ceremony speakers will receive honorary degrees, except for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the lecturer at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Tropaia ceremony.
Also speaking at commencement events this weekend are Adams University Professor of Economics at Harvard University and winner of the 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics Eric Maskin to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Humanitarian Services for the American Red Cross President Gerald M. DeFrancisco to the School of Continuing Studies, Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. Mauro L.I. Vieira to the MBA program, “CBS Evening News” producer Erin Lyall (GRD ’02) and U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman to the Master of Science in Foreign Service program, National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence Chairman Sir Michael Rawlins to the School of Medicine and Fox News commentator Greta Van Susteren (LAW ’79, LAW ’82) to the Law Center. Retired Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer of MedStar Health William Thomas and Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus (LAW ’01) will also be receiving honorary degrees but will not speak at any commencement ceremonies.