Spelman College's 2017 Commencement Speaker will be announced in the upcoming months.
Loretta E. Lynch -- 2016 Commencement Speaker
Loretta E. Lynch was sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States by Vice President Joe Biden on April 27, 2015. President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Lynch on November 8, 2014.
Lynch received her A.B., cum laude, from Harvard College in 1981, and her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984. In 1990, after a period in private practice, Lynch joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, located in Brooklyn, New York — the city she considers her adopted home. There, she forged an impressive career prosecuting cases involving narcotics, violent crimes, public corruption, and civil rights. In one notable instance, she served on the prosecution team in the high-profile civil rights case of Abner Louima, the Haitian immigrant who was sexually assaulted by uniformed police officers in a Brooklyn police precinct in 1997.
In 1999, President Clinton appointed her to lead the office as United States Attorney—a post she held until 2001. In 2002, she joined Hogan & Hartson LLP (now Hogan Lovells) as a partner in the firm’s New York office. While in private practice, Lynch performed extensive pro bono work for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, established to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations in the 1994 genocide in that country. As Special Counsel to the Tribunal, she was responsible for investigating allegations of witness tampering and false testimony.
In 2010, President Obama asked Lynch to resume her leadership of the United States Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn. Under her direction, the office successfully prosecuted numerous corrupt public officials, terrorists, cybercriminals and human traffickers, among other important cases.
Lynch is the daughter of Lorenzo and Lorine Lynch of Durham, North Carolina, a retired minister and a librarian whose commitment to justice and public service has been the inspiration for her life’s work.
Lynch enjoys spending her free time with her husband, Stephen Hargrove, and their two children.
Honorary Degree Recipient: Stevie Wonder
American singer, songwriter, musician, and producer, Stevland Morris AKA Stevie Wonder, is one of
the most celebrated and prominent figures in popular music, who at the age of 13, was the youngest recording artist to have achieved a #1 single with “Fingertips, Part 2,” and subsequently the first to simultaneously reach #1 on Billboard's Hot 100, R&B Singles and Album Charts.
To date, he has amassed 49 Top Forty singles, 32 #1 singles and worldwide sales of over 100 million units. Stevie has won 25 Grammy Awards, the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.
While Stevie's songs are unequivocally classic and his influence timeless, equally laudable are his humanitarian efforts, philanthropic leadership, and generosity of spirit. He has received numerous accolades including awards
from the President's Committee on Employment of Handicapped People, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Children's Diabetes Foundation and the American Association of People with Disabilities.
In 1983, Stevie spearheaded the realization of “Martin Luther King Day” as a national holiday. His participation in the 1985 “We Are The World” fundraiser for hunger in Africa was a music industry milestone while his involvement to put an end to apartheid in South Africa is legendary. He is the youngest recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, is a Commander of France's National Order of Arts and Letters and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the
Songwriters Hall of Fame, the NAACP Hall of Fame, and the Apollo Theatre Hall of Fame.
Upon being awarded the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Stevie performed his commission, “Sketches Of A Life," which placed him in a very select group of eminent composers who have received library commissions, including Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein and Paquito D'Rivera.
Stevie has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and he is a designated U.N. Messenger of Peace with special focus on persons with disabilities. He continues to be a pivotal influence in U.S. and world events, demonstrating the activism that has made him such a vital voice for social progress and world harmony.
Board of Trustees' National Community Service Award Recipient: Precious Zywiciel Muhammad
Born of humble beginnings, Precious Zywiciel Muhammad left her family’s farm and business in Rochelle, Georgia and journeyed to Atlanta to pursue her dreams. Settling with extended family in the Westside community, she completed high school, and as a result of her participation in the Atlanta University Center’s Upward Bound program, she enrolled in Emory University to begin her academic career in medicine. Instilled with the early lessons of service and helping others, and with more family members preceding her into the field of health care, Muhammad began her post education work career as a respiratory therapist.
As her life’s path took her from the nation’s capital to sunny California, Muhammad continued her dedicated work as a respiratory therapist and worked tirelessly to help chronically and often terminally ill patients. In 1986, after many years of work in the health care field, she embarked upon a new career as a world-traveling flight attendant for a major airline. Although often obscured by the 'glamour' of the travel industry, Muhammad's role as a crew member was simply to continue her work of being of service to others since the first responsibility of any crew member is to safeguard the well-being of passengers in her charge.
In the mid-1990s, Muhammad returned to Atlanta and the Westside community where she sought opportunities to give back and to help the less fortunate. To that end, she established HAGAR Civilization Training Missionary (Hagar CTM), a community- based organization dedicated to generating interest and resources to improve her community.
HAGAR CTM started modestly by providing shelter and support services to abused women and children in crisis. Through the sheer force of will, Muhammad drove the organization forward and upward. She was to participate in and shape the advancement of conditions and economically positive events in her community.
Building on its early success, in 2006, HAGAR CTM took on the significant challenge of also being a leader in rehabilitating the physical circumstances of the Westside community. With the assistance of recruited partners, HAGAR began to preserve the historic Westside community’s Bronner Family properties – a monumental challenge with no guarantee of success. Over the next two and a half years, Muhammad worked tirelessly to see the project through to completion. Today, the location stands as a testament to the rich history of the Westside community, which worked together to preserve a site that was a part of the Civil Rights Movement.
Never one to be satisfied with previous success, Muhammad has guided HAGAR CTM onward to new projects in the Westside community. The organization is grateful for the continued support of community luminaries such as Hagar CTM’s CEO Erik Levine, former Mayor Shirley Franklin, City Councilman Ivory Young, Delta Captain Robert Zywiciel, Dean Jacqueline Royster, Ph.D., of Georgia Institute of Technology and members of the Bronner family.
Supported by resources from Invest Atlanta, HAGAR continues its mission of providing dedicated service to the community through the development of affordable housing projects. The development of the housing projects, which are currently underway, will provide expanded, safe, clean and affordable living accommodations and services to the most vulnerable and at-risk members in our neighborhoods including senior citizens, disabled persons and veterans.
Baccalaureate Speaker: Jonathan L. Walton, Ph.D.
Social ethicist and scholar of American religions Jonathan L. Walton, Ph.D., is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University and Pusey Minister in Harvard's Memorial Church. He is also a professor of religion and society on the faculty of divinity.
Professor Walton's research addresses the intersections of religion, politics and media culture. He has published widely in scholarly journals such as Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation and Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. His book, Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism (NYU Press, 2009), disrupts commonly held assumptions that associate evangelical broadcasting with white, conservative evangelical communities, while illuminating the ways televangelists' professed aims are frustrated by their hyper-mediated methods.
Professor Walton's work and insights have been featured in several national and international news outlets including the New York times, CNN and the BBC.
Walton earned his Ph.D. and master of divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Atlanta native graduated from Morehouse College with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. Walton was assistant professor of religious studies at the University of California, Riverside prior to joining the faculty of Harvard Divinity School.