DU Commencement ceremonies offer students and guests advice and lessons from many distinguished guests with a variety of experiences.
Summer 2013 Commencement Speaker
James Herbert Williams, dean of the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work
James Herbert Williams, PhD, MSW, is dean and Milton Morris Endowed Chair at the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver.
Williams' numerous publications focus primarily on health promotion and disease prevention, mental health, delinquency, youth violence, and social issues of the African American community. His most recent scholarship addresses disease prevention and mental health services for African American children in urban schools, the disproportionate minority confinement of African American youth in the juvenile justice system, school safety and violence prevention, disease prevention among African American women, and community strategies for positive youth development.
Williams served as Principal Investigator of research collaboration with the United Nations Centre for Regional Development on conflict and human security in northern Kenya, and he co-authored a 2011 book on the subject. A similar project is currently underway in Botswana, again with Williams serving as the P.I.
Williams' many honors include the Day-Garrett Award from the Smith College School for Social Work and a Distinguished Alumnus Award the School of Social at the University of Washington, both presented in 2013.
Past Commencement Speakers
The Sturm College of Law's class of 2013 received its Commencement address from U.S. Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) on May 18.
A member of the U.S. Senate since 2009, Bennet is a member of the committees on agriculture; nutrition and forestry; health, education, labor and pensions; banking, housing and urban affairs; and the Special Committee on Aging. Before joining the U.S. Senate, Bennet was superintendent of Denver Public Schools and chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon—a strong advocate for sustainable development, gender equality, global peacekeeping and improving UN operations—delivered the main address at DU's graduate Commencement ceremony on Friday, June 7, 2013.
Since taking office on Jan. 1, 2007, Ban has used his experience growing up in the war-torn Republic of Korea (and the UN's intervention in helping it rebuild) as motivation to mobilize world leaders around such challenges as climate change, economic upheaval and poverty.
He has also held various positions throughout South Korea, including minister of foreign affairs and trade; foreign policy adviser to the president; chief national security adviser to the president; deputy minuter for policy planning; and director-general of American affairs.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock sent off DU's undergraduate students with his official Commencement address on June 8, 2013.
Hancock took office in July 2011, and has since championed efforts to transform Denver into a "smart city" focused on innovation and growth in the job and security sectors, as well as bolstering education. Among his efforts to achieve this: He's opened the door to new global, economic connections to Asia, Europe and Central America by introducing international flights to Tokyo, Iceland and Mexico City; moved well-trained police officers from desks to the streets; and increased the response rate for new requests for assistance benefits from 54 percent to 95 percent.
Lynn Gangone, dean, the Women's College, University of Denver
Lynn Gangone—a local and nationally respected speaker and writer, and dean of the Women's College at the University of Denver—delivered the main Commencement address for the summer 2012 ceremony, Friday, Aug. 17.
A strong advocate for women in higher education and beyond, Gangone joined DU in 2007, following three years as a visiting professor in the higher education administration program at George Washington University.
Her work on behalf of women also extends to her participation in several organizations and service on such boards as Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) and the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce. Gangone also is the American Association of College and Universities (AAC&U) Campus Women Lead for Inclusive Excellence Initiative.
William Dean Singleton, founder and chairman, MediaNews Group
William Dean Singleton, founder and chairman of newspaper company MediaNews Group, was the featured speaker at DU's graduate commencement ceremony on Friday, June 8, 2012.
Singleton has worked in the newspaper industry since 1966, when—at the age of 15—he became a reporter for his hometown paper in Graham, Texas. At 21, he bought his first newspaper, the Clarendon Press in Clarendon, Texas.
Since founding MediaNews Group in 1983, Singleton has bought several newspapers (many in danger of folding), including The Denver Post, The Detroit News and The San Jose Mercury News. He's also forged partnerships with media companies such as Gannett and E.W. Scripps Co.
According to its website, MediaNews Group runs more than 50 newspapers in 11 states, and more than 90 published products.
Roger Birnbaum, DU alumnus, and CEO and co-chairman, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. (MGM Studios)
Students who received their bachelor's degrees in spring 2012 heard from featured Commencement speaker Roger Birnbaum, a DU alumnus and CEO of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Inc. (aka, MGM Studios).
Birnbaum, who attended DU from 1968 to 1971, started his career in the music industry as vice president of A&M Records and Arista Records before moving into film production at Twentieth Century Fox.
While at Twentieth Century Fox, he oversaw such blockbusters as Home Alone, Last of the Mohicans and Edward Scissorhands.
After a successful run with Caravan Pictures (his credits included Rush Hour, Six Days/Seven Nights and Angels in the Outfield) he co-founded Spyglass Entertainment, a production, finance and distribution company.
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter
At DU's 2010 Sturm College of Law Commencement ceremony, Ritter urged graduates to assume their roles as stewards with great care.
"You become the keeper of the keys...or as Tolkien might say, you now possess the ring."
Lewis Sharp, former director of the Denver Art Museum, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sharp delivered a short speech to DU's 2010 spring graduate class on June 4, 2010. He encouraged graduates to pursue work within the non-profit sector, where he said they?d be intellectually challenged and meet amazing people.
"In the non-profit sector, you have an opportunity to work with some of the most committed and engaging individuals in a community."
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.)
DeGette, who represents Colorado's First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, said she has great faith that DU's 2009 undergraduate class will face the global challenges ahead with the leadership skills they've developed here.
"This is a campus that produces leaders in every field. DU graduates turn knowledge into action; they find a way to give back to Colorado and to the world. ... But now we need your leadership as never before. We are at a turning point in history. We are at a time of renewal and a time of change. The world is rapidly mutating around us, a whirlwind of motion with wild fluctuations in global stock markets and a crisis of confidence in our minds.
"The events of the last few years force us to refocus our thoughts, to reprioritize, to rise to the challenges of change. We are not studying history; we are living it, and our actions now will determine our future."