DU Commencement ceremonies offer students and guests advice and lessons from many distinguished guests with a variety of experiences.
Spring 2015 Commencement Speakers
Sturm College of Law Ceremony
Ken Salazar, former U.S. secretary of the interior and former Colorado senator
Former Secretary Ken Salazar is a partner in the global law firm of WilmerHale. Salazar served on the Cabinet of the United States as the 50th secretary of the Department of the Interior for more than four years. In that position, he directed a vast agency responsible for managing the nation’s natural and cultural resources, including the nation’s public lands, fish, wildlife, and national parks.
As secretary, he oversaw energy development in America’s oceans and public lands and had primary responsibility for the federal relationship with American Indians. During his time as secretary, he helped lead the nation’s “all of the above” energy strategy and successfully developed and implemented pioneering oil and gas and renewable energy initiatives on public and private lands. His many conservation efforts included the creation of ten national parks and ten national wildlife refuges.
Salazar also served as Colorado’s 35th United States Senator. As senator, he was a key leader in creating the successful energy framework created by the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Security Act, and the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Before becoming U.S. senator, the secretary was twice-elected Colorado’s Attorney General, where he worked on making Colorado’s communities safer and protecting Colorado’s land and water.
Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities
Carol Geary Schneider is president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). With nearly 1,350 member institutions, half public and half private, drawn from the entire higher education community, AAC&U is the leading national organization devoted to the quality, vitality and public standing of undergraduate liberal education.
AAC&U is widely recognized as both a voice and force for strengthening the quality of student learning in college for all students, and especially those historically underserved in U.S. higher education. Under Dr. Schneider’s leadership, AAC&U works to advance liberal education at both the national and the local level and to help individual colleges and universities keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.
During the course of her tenure at AAC&U, first as executive vice president and then as president, Schneider has developed and led a series of national initiatives, including Liberal Education and America’s Promise, or LEAP, a public advocacy and campus action initiative designed to engage students and the public with what really matters in a college education for the 21st century. The LEAP initiative builds on AAC&U’s major effort, Greater Expectations: The Commitment to Quality as a Nation Goes to College, a multi-year initiative designed to articulate the aims of a 21st century liberal education and to identify comprehensive, innovative models that improve learning for all undergraduate students.
Michael F. Bennet was elected United States Senator for Colorado in November 2010. A newcomer to politics with experience in business and public service, he is recognized as a pragmatic, innovative and independent thinker driven by a deep-seated obligation to create more opportunity for the next generation.
Before his appointment to the Senate in 2009 and subsequent election to a full 6-year term in 2010, Michael served as superintendent of Denver Public Schools, where he led a reform effort that improved student achievement, helped turn around failing schools and brought a halt to a seemingly endless cycle of annual budget cuts.
Prior to his time at the Denver Public Schools, Michael served as chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. In that role, he implemented reforms that made city government more responsive to the needs and concerns of the greater Denver community. Bennet's experience saving jobs and turning around failing companies has also served him well in the U.S. Senate. As managing director at the Anschutz Investment Company, Michael managed the successful restructuring of more than $3 billion in corporate debt.
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.
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."