Commencement: Commencement Speaker

Commencement Speaker

Spelman College Commencement Speaker Loretta E. Lynch

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

Stevie Wonder Receives Honorary Degree from Spelman CollegeAmerican singer, songwriter, musician, and producer, 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. Wonder has won 25 Grammy Awards, the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. 

While Wonder'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, Wonder 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.
Wonder 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 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.

Baccalaureate Speaker: Jonathan L. Walton, Ph.D.

Jonathan WaltonSocial 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. 

For Media

Media Contact: Audrey Arthur
Office: 404-270-5892
E-mail: aarthur3@spelman.edu

Commencement Details​
Media Release