Leaders, Celebrities Speaking at UNCF-Member HBCU Commencements

UNCF congratulates the Class of 2018!

Featured 2018 Commencement Speakers at UNCF-Member Institutions                            



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.

Jarvis Christian College: Jesse J. Holland, Jamie Foxx
Holland, Race and Ethnicity writer for the Associated Press, is the author of “Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?” a companion novel to Marvel’s blockbuster movie, “Black Panther.” Actor, comedian and singer Jamie Foxx will receive an Honorary Doctorate degree.

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. 

Voorhees College: Sheryl Underwood
​Underwood is an American comedian, actress and television host, well known for hosting BET Comic View and currently one of the five hosts on the daytime chat show The Talk on CBS.

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.

Wilberforce University: Benjamin L. Crump
Through his legal prowess and advocacy in the Trayvon Martin case, the Martin Lee Anderson Boot Camp case, and the Robbie Tolan US Supreme Court Case, Attorney Benjamin Crump has created a significant legal legacy that ensures that the promise found in our nation’s constitution is indeed real in every state, municipality and neighborhood. His legal acumen as both litigator and advocate has ensured that those most frequently marginalized are protected by their nation’s contract with its constituency.

May 12

Allen University: Joan Robinson-Berry
Robinson-Berry is Vice President and General Manager of Boeing South Carolina, named as Uptown Professionals Top 100 Executives in America, Associate Technical Fellow and an African Scientific Institute Fellow.

Benedict College: Shaun King
Activist and humanitarian King is known for his use of social media to promote religious, charitable, and social causes including the Black Lives Matter movement.

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.

LeMoyne-Owen College: Jesse J. Holland
Holland, Race and Ethnicity writer for the Associated Press, is the author of “Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?” a companion novel to Marvel’s blockbuster movie, “Black Panther.”

Oakwood University: Darryl M. Bell
The actor is best known for his role as Big Brother X-Ray Vision in the 1988 Spike Lee film School Daze and as Ron Johnson Jr. on the NBC sitcom A Different World.

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

Saint Augustine’s University: William H. Wright II
financial services executive Mr. William H. Wright, II serves as Managing Director of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, and Director, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

Shaw University: Bakari Sellers
Sellers is a political analyst, attorney and activist, CNN political commentator and former representative from South Carolina.

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.

May 20

Johnson C. Smith University: Marc Morial
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League since 2003, will deliver the keynote address. A former mayor of New Orleans and a Louisiana state senator, he was recognized as one of the 100 Most-influential Black Americans by Ebony Magazine, one of the Top 50 Nonprofit Executives by the Nonprofit Times, and one of the Top 100 Black Lawyers in America.

Morehouse College: U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr.
The Hon. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-GA, Albany), a 1968 graduate of Morehouse, represents residents of Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, which covers 29 middle and southwest Georgia counties. The Congressman will be honored as part of the Morehouse Class of 1968—this year’s “Golden Tigers,” who are celebrating their 50th reunion. 

Spelman College: Rosalind Gates Brewer
Brewer, class of ’84, is group president Americas and Chief Operating Officer for Starbucks. She is the first alumna to serve as commencement speaker in 30 years.