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Stacey Abrams to Deliver Class of 2022 Commencement Address Share a Spelman College Press Release

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ATLANTA (April 21, 2022) – Spelman College recently announced the selection of its 135th Commencement speaker. 

Alumna Stacey Yvonne Abrams, C '95, politician, lawyer and author will deliver the keynote address to graduates during 2022 commencement celebrations on Sunday, May 15, 2022, at 3 p.m., in the McCamish Pavilion on the campus of GA Tech.  Abrams will also receive a 2022 National Community Service Award.

Abrams served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017, serving as minority leader from 2011 to 2017. She graduated from Spelman magna cum laude with a degree in interdisciplinary studies and was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar. 

In 2010, Abrams became House Democratic Leader in the Georgia General Assembly, the first woman to lead either party in the state legislature and the first Black Georgian to lead in the House of Representatives. 

“Spelman College is fortunate to have a dynamic leader such as Stacey Abrams as an alumna. Her work has had a tremendous impact on our state and country and the African American community,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “She stands as an example for Spelman students of how to lead effectively while navigating complex issues, like voting rights, equity, and civil rights. We look forward to all that Abrams will share with the class of 2022.”

This year’s graduating class will include five valedictorians, a salutatorian and several high- achieving graduates from across the country. 

Post-graduation plans among many seniors include graduate school and starting careers in STEM, business, social sciences, medicine and the arts. 

Graduating senior Jordan Barrant, C’2022, a comparative women's studies major with a minor in art history and curatorial studies, is headed to the Art Institute of Chicago where she will pursue a master’s degree in visual and critical studies. 

As a Quarterman & Keller Social Justice Scholar, Barrant worked on research projects focused on land ownership and racial injustice tied to America’s legacy of slavery. 

The Quarterman-Keller Scholars Program was the first educational initiative established by the Reparations Project, a nonprofit managed by the descendants of an enslaved coastal Georgia family and the descendants of their enslavers. 

“They say at Spelman, it is all about sisterhood and that's true,” said Barrant. “My undergraduate experience was challenging and truly uplifting. Spelman provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with some of the brightest minds, and the honor of working side by side with other future leaders of the world.”


Honorary Degree Recipient

Dr. Alexander, president of The Mellon Foundation, is a decorated poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate will receive an Honorary Degree.

Dr. Alexander is the author of Praise Song for the Day, an occasion poem delivered at the 2009 presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama. The poem is the fourth to be delivered at a United States presidential inauguration.

With more than two decades of experience leading innovative programs in education, philanthropy, and beyond, Dr. Alexander builds partnerships at Mellon to support the arts and humanities while strengthening educational institutions and cultural organizations across the world. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Alexander served as the director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, shaping Ford’s grantmaking vision in arts and culture, journalism, and documentary film. 


National Community Service Award Recipient

Hana Sharif, Artistic Director, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

From 1997–to 2003, Sharif served as the co-founder and Artistic Director of Nasir Productions, a theatre dedicated to underrepresented voices challenging traditional structure.

 She joined the Tony Award-winning regional theatre, Hartford Stage, in 2003. During her decade-long tenure at Hartford Stage, Sharif  served as the Associate Artistic Director, Director of New Play Development, and Artistic Producer. She launched the new play development program, expanded the community engagement and civic discourse initiatives, and developed and produced Tony, Grammy, Pulitzer, and Obie Award-winning shows.

Starting in 2012, she served as Program Manager at ArtsEmerson, a leading world theatre company based at Boston's Emerson College. 

Sharif was Baltimore Center Stage's associate artistic director from 2014 to 2019 and was the architect of the innovative CS Digital program: a platform that pushes the boundaries of traditional theatre and looks at the nexus point between art and technology. Her other achievements at Baltimore Center Stage include prototyping the Mobile Unit focused on historically underserved audiences, strengthening community engagement, producing multiple world and regional premieres, and helping to guide the theatre through a multi-million dollar building renovation and rebranding effort.

Sharif became the first Black woman to lead a major regional theatre in 2018 when she was named the Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. During her tenure at The Rep, Hana has guided the organization through a strategic alignment, expanding access to underserved communities and centering equity and anti-racism as the organization's foundational values.  

She holds a BA from Spelman College and an MFA from the University of Houston. She is the recipient of the 2009–10 Aetna New Voices Fellowship, EMC Arts Working Open Fellowship, and Theatre Communications Group (TCG) New Generations Fellowship and a founding member of The Black Theatre Commons (BTC). She serves on the board of directors for the TCG, BTC, and the Sprott Foundation.

Baccalaureate Speaker

Spelman College's 2022 Baccalaureate Speaker The Reverend Leah D. DaughtryThe Reverend Leah D. Daughtry is a nationally recognized organizer-activist, political strategist, author, and Faith leader. The daughter of a long line of community organizers and activists, Leah represents the fifth consecutive generation of pastors in the Daughtry family. A multi-faceted leader with a gift for solving highly complex problems with remarkable speed and precision, Leah has a proven capacity to manage multi-billion dollar budgets and develop internal and external communication strategies.

These abilities make her an in demand consultant with invaluable expertise to organizations seeking exponential growth. She describes her ability to create calm out of chaos as a God-given gift; and everything she has accomplished is a reflection of that gifting Bishop Daughtry serves as Presiding Prelate of The House of the Lord Churches, the fourth in succession.

Standing at the intersection of faith and politics, she works with community activists and organizations, political entities, businesses, and faith leaders and communities to assist them in building coalitions and partnerships that advance the common good. For her work with and within communities of Faith, Religion News Service named her one of the 12 most influential Democrats in the nation on faith and values politics. She has also served as Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, where she focused on the role faith and values play in American politics.

Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 24 for undergraduate teaching, No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 15th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and collaborations have been established with Johns Hopkins through the Vivian Thomas Scholars, IBM HBCU Center for Quantum Computing,  the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones.

To learn more, please visit and @spelmancollege on social media.


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