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Class of 2012 Sturm College of Law graduates celebrate in the crowd at Commencement.



DU Commencement ceremonies offer students and guests advice and lessons from many distinguished guests with a variety of experiences.

Spring 2014 Commencement Speakers

Harold Koh

Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School

Professor Harold Hongju Koh will deliver the keynote speech at the Sturm College of Law Commencement Ceremony in May 2014. 

Professor Koh is one of the country’s leading experts in public and private international law, national security law, and human rights. He first began teaching at Yale Law School in 1985 and served as its fifteenth Dean from 2004 until 2009. From 2009 to 2013, he took leave as the Martin R. Flug ’55 Professor of International Law to join the State Department as Legal Adviser, service for which he received the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award. From 1993 to 2009, he was the Gerard C. & Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, and from 1998 to 2001, he served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Professor Koh has received thirteen honorary degrees and more than thirty awards for his human rights work, including awards from Columbia Law School and the American Bar Association for his lifetime achievements in international law.

Donna Lynne

Donna Lynne, Executive Vice President of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals

Donna Lynne, DrPH, is the executive vice president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan, Inc. and a group president for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. Dr. Lynne will deliver the 2014 Spring Graduate Commencement address on Friday, June 6.

Dr. Lynne was an International Executive Fellow with the International Federation of Health Plans. She was awarded the Denver Business Journal’s 2008 Outstanding Women in Business award. Dr. Lynne received the 2009 Distinguished Coloradan Award from the University of Colorado Denver School of Pharmacy. She also received the President’s Award from Women in Health Management and the Health Care Leadership Award from the New York Business Group on Health.

Dr. Lynne has a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of New Hampshire, a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University, and a doctorate in public health from Columbia University. Dr. Lynne is the current chair of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the boards of Colorado Legacy Foundation, Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Public Schools Foundation, Teach for America-Colorado and U.S. Bank Colorado Advisory Board. Dr. Lynne is a member of Colorado Concern and Colorado Forum. She currently co-chairs the Denver Education Compact Executive Advisory Board for Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Additionally, in 2010 she was one of 16 statewide transition co-chairs and the Personnel and Administration Committee co-chair for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Dr. Lynne currently serves on Gov. Hickenlooper’s TBD Colorado Advisory Group.

Linda Childears

Linda Childears, President & CEO of the Daniels Fund

Linda Childears, President & CEO of the Daniels Fund, will deliver the 2014 Spring Undergraduate Commencement address on Saturday, June 7. Linda is passionate about the work of the Daniels Fund, and has served as its president and chief executive officers since 2005. Bill Daniels appointed her as trustee of his estate and named her to the Daniels Fund’s original Board of Directors. Linda’s leadership reflects her strong dedication to preserving and honoring the philanthropic intent of Bill Daniels.

Linda is active in the Denver community. She currently serves on the boards of Cheyenne Capital Fund, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Association of Funders, Mountain States Employers Council, and Conference of Southwest Foundations. She is a member of the Colorado Ethics in Business Alliance Leadership Council and Mayor Hancock’s Denver Education Compact. She is past chairman of National Assembly, National Camp Fire, and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. Past board positions include Alliance for Choice in Education, Cherry Creek Business Improvement District, CollegeInvest, Colorado Meth Project, Daniels College of Business, Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, Denver Public Schools Foundation, DU Bridge Project, Foundation for Teaching Economics, Johnson & Wales University, Junior Achievement, Mile High United Way, National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped, OpenWorld Learning, and Young Americans Bank and Center for Financial Education.

Linda was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration in Financial Services Management from Johnson & Wales University in July 2010, and was named National Philanthropy Day’s Outstanding Professional in Philanthropy in 2010. Other honors include Colorado Bankers Association Banker of Distinction, Girl Scouts of Colorado Woman of Distinction, the Athena Award in 2998, and Honorary Lifetime Membership in Camp Fire.


Past Commencement Speakers

James Herbert Williams

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 delivered the Summer 2013 Commencement address.

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.  

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet

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.

Read U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet's full biography.



Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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.

Read the full text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's speech


Mayor Michael Hancock.

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. 

Read Mayor Michael Hancock's full biography 


Lynn Gangone

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

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.

Read about Singleton's speech.

Roger Birnbaum

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.

Read about Birnbaum's speech

Bill Ritter

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."

Watch Ritter's speech.


Lewis Sharp

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."

Watch Sharp's speech


Diana DeGette

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."

Watch DeGette's speech