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Spelman Commencement Speaker

Commencement Speaker

2018 Speaker:  Rosalind Gates Brewer, C’84

ExecPhoto_RozBrewer (web)Rosalind Gates Brewer, C’84, group president Americas and chief operating officer for Starbucks, has been named commencement speaker for the Spelman College class of 2018. As the first alumna to serve as commencement speaker in 30 years, since Marian Wright Edelman, C’60, addressed the graduating class of 1988, Brewer will address 472 graduates and 8,000 of their family and friends during the ceremony on Sunday, May 20, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta.

Brewer is a proven C-suite executive with more than 30 years of experience leading some of the world’s largest and most recognized public companies. Throughout her distinguished career she has achieved several notable firsts, including being the first woman and first African American to hold the role of COO at Starbucks. She also made history when she joined Sam’s Club in 2012, the $56 billion members-only warehouse channel of Walmart Inc., by becoming the first woman and first African American to lead a Walmart division. She has repeatedly been named one of the world’s most powerful women by Fortune and Forbes, ranking No. 19 and No. 57 respectively in 2016. She also serves on the board of directors for Starbucks and chairs the Spelman College Board of Trustees.

“Rosalind Brewer is a stellar example of the Spelman woman, one who has made a significant impact not only as a business woman, but as a global citizen,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “She has forged a path that has led to numerous successes in corporate America and has served as an exceptional chair of the Spelman College Board of Trustees. We are pleased to have someone who confidently knows her own voice and strengths, and who as STEM major and Spelman alumna, can share her experience with the class of 2018.”

Brewer helms Starbucks operating businesses across the Americas (Canada, U.S. and Latin America) as well as the global functions of supply chain, product innovation and store development organizations. In addition to serving as president and CEO of Sam’s Club, her past senior leadership positions include six years in executive roles for Walmart and 22 years at Kimberly-Clark where she worked her way up from scientist to president of the Global Nonwovens Sector.

As a corporate leader and mentor, Brewer has been intentional in her efforts to create roadmaps and reduce barriers for those within her sphere of influence as it relates to the success of the organizations where she’s held leadership roles. “I count among my successes the individuals who have been promoted, the entrepreneurs who now own their own businesses and the executives who are now corporate leaders in their own right,” she said.

She also views her fellow alumnae and Spelman trustees as an integral part of her circle of champions. “During my time on the board of trustees, I have had the opportunity to serve alongside Spelman alumnae including Yvonne Jackson, C’70, Jerri DeVard, C'79, Lovette Russell, C'83, and Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Ph.D., C'96,” said Brewer. “These women modeled, far beyond our graduation, the lessons we learned at Spelman about the power of sisterhood, authenticity and truth in the face of adversity. These lessons and their faith in me and words of advice and encouragement helped me to stand in my truth at some of the most challenging times in my career.”

Brewer earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Spelman in 1984 and attended Wharton’s Advanced Management Program and Stanford University’s Directors’ College. The recipient of the Spelman College Legacy of Leadership award, she continues to give back her alma mater in numerous ways, including establishing the Rosalind Gates Brewer Scholarship in 2013, which has supported nine first-generation college students to date, serving on the class of 1984’s Reunion planning committee and working with the College on student recruitment and mentoring initiatives.

Honorary Degree Recipient: Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson at SpelmanBryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. 

EJI recently won an historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.  Stevenson’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government, and has been previously awarded 29 honorary doctorate degrees. He is the author of the award-winning and New York Times bestseller, "Just Mercy." In 2015, he was named to the Time 100 recognizing the world’s most influential people; and he was named in Fortune’s 2016 and 2017 World’s Greatest Leaders list. 

In April 2018, EJI opened a new museum called The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration built on the site of a former slave warehouse in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.  This is a companion to a national memorial to victims of lynching called “The National Memorial for Peace and Justice” which opened at the same time.

Baccalaureate Speaker: Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III

Spelman Commencement Honoree Calvin Butts Calvin O. Butts, III, D.Min., is president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury and pastor of the nationally renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York. Dr. Butts will serve as the Baccalaureate speaker for the class of 2018.

As president of The College at Old Westbury, Dr. Butts works continuously to create an invigorating environment dedicated to academic excellence and the development of leadership qualities in students.Through its broad multidisciplinary liberal arts programs, the College confers degrees in more than 40 majors leading to bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, bachelor of professional studies, master of arts and master of science degrees. Since being named Old Westbury’s president in September 1999, Dr. Butts has reinvigorated one of the most diverse public college campuses in America.

For his efforts and community activism, Dr. Butts has received innumerable honors and commendations, including Man of the Year, Morehouse College Alumni Association; The Morehouse College Candle Award; The Rainbow PUSH Coalition Wall Street Project Award; the Teachers College, Columbia University Medal for Distinguished Service; The William M. Moss Distinguished Brotherhood Award; and The Louise Fisher Morris Humanitarian Award.  He has also been inducted as an Archon of the Beta Zeta Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Prince Hall Masons and has received the 33rd and final degree in Masonry. Further, he has been recognized as a “Living Treasure” by the New York City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Community Service Award: Lonnie G. Bunch, III

Lonnie BunchHistorian, author, curator and educator, Lonnie G. Bunch, III is the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum opened to critical and public acclaim on September 24, 2016. As a public historian, a scholar who brings history to the people, Bunch has spent nearly 30 years in the museum field where he is regarded as one of the nation’s leading figures in the historical and museum community.

Prior to his July 2005 appointment  as director of NMAAHC, Bunch served as the president of the Chicago Historical Society, one of the nation’s oldest museums of history (January 2001-June 2005). There, he initiated an unprecedented outreach initiative to diverse communities and launched a much-applauded exhibition and program on teenage life titled “Teen Chicago.”  He also led a successful capital campaign to transform the institution in celebration of its 150th anniversary and managed an institutional reorganization.

A prolific and widely published author, Bunch has written on topics ranging from slavery, the black military experience, the American presidency and all black towns in the American west to diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on American museums. In service to the historical and cultural community, Bunch has served on the advisory boards of the American Association of Museums, the African American Association of Museums, the American Association of State and Local History, and the ICOM-US.

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