ATLANTA— Morehouse College will celebrate its 136th annual Commencement exercises at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in a virtual ceremony that will feature the presentation of degrees to more than 400 scholars and a keynote address by business icon and philanthropist Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and managing director of the venture capital firm General Catalyst and the former chairman and chief executive officer of American Express.
Luminaries in business, higher education, and cancer research will also be recognized with honorary degrees for their dedication to leadership, service, and excellence.
This will be the first virtual graduation in the history of Morehouse College. Watch Commencement on YouTube starting Dec. 13. The ceremony was originally scheduled in May but was postponed until December to give College officials more time to determine if an in-person ceremony could be held safely during the global pandemic. As the national COVID-19 infection rate climbed to record levels in November, administrators decided to move Commencement festivities online to protect the health and safety of the Morehouse Community.
“The Class of 2020 has persevered through unprecedented times of change and exceeded expectations of excellence set for men of Morehouse,” said David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College. “As Morehouse Men, they have already begun exciting careers and prestigious graduate programs. This virtual ceremony will allow us to celebrate their achievements and challenge them to become the leaders that they are prepared to be in their chosen fields, the community, and the nation. I am proud of their success and honored that Ken Chenault and our other honorary degree recipients have agreed to share this special day with our graduates.”
Commencement speaker Chenault is widely respected for his leadership and integrity and is recognized as one of the business world’s experts on brands and brand management. A business icon, Chenault spent nearly 40 years of his illustrious career at American Express, a Fortune 500 Company. Upon his retirement from American Express, Warren Buffett, the company’s largest shareholder stated, “Ken's been the gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against.” Fortune magazine named Chenault to its inaugural list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2014.
Chenault holds a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s degree in history from Bowdoin College. He serves on several boards, including Airbnb, Berkshire Hathaway, the Smithsonian Institution’s Advisory Council for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Chenault will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree will also be bestowed upon Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, a noted author, anthropologist, and visionary leader in higher education, who was the first African American woman to be named as president of Spelman College. Morehouse alumnus Dr. Mack Roach III, a renowned cancer research scientist and member of the Class of 1975, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
Cole worked as a professor and administrator at the University of California in Los Angeles, Washington State University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Hunter College before being named the seventh president of Spelman College. She later served as president of Bennett College from 2002– 2007. Cole holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Oberlin College and a doctorate in anthropology from Northwestern University.
Roach is a tenured professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation and Urology at the University of California, San Francisco. He is recognized nationally as an expert in the treatment of prostate cancer and has helped to pioneer the use of endorectal Magnetic Spectroscopy imaging as a means of monitoring prostate cancer outcomes. Roach also helped to establish American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria Guidelines for defining how men with prostate cancer should be treated with radiotherapy. He holds a physics degree from Morehouse and a medical degree from Stanford University.
The Morehouse College Class of 2020 valedictorian is Golden Daka of Clinton, Maryland and Lusaka, Zambia. Daka majored in psychology and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA at Morehouse. Georgia native Huiet V. Joseph IV will receive a plaque to honor his achievement as salutatorian. Joseph, a chemistry major from Alpharetta, Georgia, earned a 3.99 GPA following the completion of his academic program in June.
The virtual 136th Commencement Ceremony will end a celebration of festivities that honors the rich traditions of academic excellence and brotherhood at Morehouse. Baccalaureate 2020 will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12. The Rev. Dr. Jamal H. Bryant, a 1994 graduate of Morehouse, will serve as guest speaker. Bryant is senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Lithonia, which has more than 25,000 members.
Morehouse is the nation’s only HBCU focused on educating men. The liberal arts college has a nationally-acclaimed business program and is the top feeder school for Black men entering Harvard Business School. Morehouse educates 2,100 students each year, 60 percent of whom come from families with household incomes of $40,000 or less. As the national epicenter for thought leadership on civil rights, Morehouse is committed to helping the nation address the inequities caused by institutional racism, which have created disparities in income, employment, health, housing, and educational opportunities for people of African descent.
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The Class of 2020 has persevered through unprecedented times of change and exceeded expectations of excellence set for men of Morehouse. As Morehouse Men, they have already begun exciting careers and prestigious graduate programs. This virtual ceremony will allow us to celebrate their achievements and challenge them to become the leaders that they are prepared to be in their chosen fields, the community, and the nation.David A. Thomas, President of Morehouse College