Deval L. Patrick Named 2015 Commencement Speaker
Deval L. Patrick ’78, J.D. ’82, the seventy-first governor of Massachusetts, who completed his second term last month, will be the principal speaker at Harvard’s 364th Commencement on Thursday, May 28, the University announced today. Calling Patrick “an extraordinarily distinguished alumnus, a deeply dedicated public servant, and an inspiring embodiment of the American dream,” President Drew Faust said, “We greatly look forward to welcoming him home to Harvard on Commencement Day.”
The first in his family to attend college, Patrick left his home on Chicago’s South Side at 14 after winning a scholarship to Milton Academy through the Boston-based organization A Better Chance. At Harvard, the English concentrator volunteered at Phillips Brooks House, became corporate treasurer of Harvard Student Agencies, and was a member of the Hasty Pudding Institute. He spent a year in Africa on a Rockefeller Fellowship before entering Harvard Law School, where he became president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.
After clerking on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Los Angeles, the future governor became a staff attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, focusing on voting rights and death-penalty cases, before joining the Boston law firm Hill & Barlow. In 1994, President Bill Clinton named him assistant attorney general for civil rights, the nation’s top civil-rights post. Following his federal service, he became the first chair of Texaco’s Equality and Fairness Task Force, and later served as a senior executive at Texaco and then at the Coca-Cola Co.
Patrick announced his candidacy for governor of Massachusetts in 2005, and organized a broad-based grassroots campaign that led to his election in 2006. He took his oath of office with his hand on the Mende Bible, presented to John Quincy Adams, A.B. 1787, by freed Africans from the slave ship Amistad. During his two terms in office, his administration emphasized strong support for public education at all levels and encouraged the vigorous growth of the life sciences, clean technology, and digital technology industries, involving collaboration among government, universities, and the private sector.
Patrick will deliver his speech during the Afternoon Exercises—the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. The association’s president, Cynthia Torres ’80, M.B.A. ’84, said that Patrick’s distinguished career as governor of the nation’s oldest commonwealth “continues a longstanding tradition of Harvard alumni in public leadership. We look forward to hearing him share his insights with our graduates, alumni, and friends.”
Read the University announcement here.