DU Commencement ceremonies offer students and guests advice and lessons from many distinguished guests with a variety of experiences.
Summer 2015 Commencement Speaker
Christopher Hill, dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and former ambassador
Ambassador Christopher R. Hill has served as the dean of DU's Josef Korbel School of International Studies since September 2010. In addition to overseeing the Josef Korbel School, Ambassador Hill is author of Outpost: Life on the Frontlines of American Diplomacy: A Memoir, a monthly columnist for Project Syndicate, and a public speaker and voice in the media on international affairs.
He is a former career diplomat, a four-time ambassador nominated by three presidents. His last post was as ambassador to Iraq, April 2009 until August 2010. Before his working in Iraq, Hill served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 2005 until 2009, during which he was also the head of the U.S. delegation to the Six Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue. Earlier, he was the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea. Previously he served as U.S. ambassador to Poland (2000-2004), ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia (1996-1999) and Special Envoy to Kosovo (1998-1999). He also served as a special assistant to the president and a senior director on the staff of the National Security Council, 1999-2000.
Earlier in his Foreign Service career, Hill served tours in Belgrade, Warsaw, Seoul and Tirana, and on the Department of State's Policy Planning staff and in the Department’s Operation Center. While on a fellowship with the American Political Science Association he served as a staff member for Congressman Stephen Solarz working on Eastern European issues. He also served as the Department of State's Senior Country Officer for Poland. Ambassador Hill received the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award for his contributions as a member of the U.S. negotiating team in the Bosnia peace settlement, and he was a recipient of the Robert S. Frasure Award for Peace Negotiations for his work on the Kosovo crisis.
Past Commencement Speakers
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.
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.
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."