Graduation ceremonies kick off this weekend for colleges and universities across North Carolina. But before hundreds of students walk across the stage to get their diploma, they will be charged by a commencement speaker.
Speakers will share stories and words of wisdom as the graduates begin their next chapter. This year's roster ranges from a late-night talk show host to a U.S. Congressman. Here are the people students and attendees should look forward to hearing this graduation season.
Stephen Colbert, Comedian and Talk Show Host
Wake Forest University, Mon. May 18
Before the political comedian takes over David Letterman's spot on late-night television, he will step on stage to deliver what is expected to be a satirical, silly and sincere speech. Over the span of nine years, Colbert won six Emmy's with his comedy show "The Colbert Report." He is also a best-selling author and a former presidential candidate.
“I’m not sure what our graduates will enjoy more – how his creative genius reflects the exaggerated extremes of politics and contemporary life or how so many of us at Wake Forest will find ourselves on the receiving end of his jokes," Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch said.
Wake Forest's commencement will be at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 18 at the Hearn Plaza. The ceremony is a ticketed event for graduates, families and friends.
As a preview, check out Colbert's commencement speech at the University of Virginia in 2013:
Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States
Central Piedmont College, Thurs. May 14
Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, is a believer in community college. The Second Lady has taught English in community colleges for the past 20 years, currently teaches full-time at a community college in Northern Virginia and has called the institutions “one of America’s best-kept secrets.” In 2010, Dr. Biden hosted the first White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama and continues to advocate for issues such as breast cancer prevention and support for military families.
Biden will deliver her speech to the public at 4 p.m. at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte on Thursday, May 14. The college expects about 1,800 graduates and 800 other attendees at the event.
Here is Biden speaking at the 2012 Democratic National Convention about her life as an educator and military mom:
Pat McCrory, North Carolina Governor
Forsyth Technical Community College, Thurs. May 7
Elizabeth City State University, Sat. May 9
Gov. McCrory will be echoing Jill Biden's support for the community college system. He will travel to Winston-Salem Thursday to speak to more than 1,000 students about the importance of innovation within community colleges. He is also scheduled to speak this Saturday at Elizabeth City State University. Last month, McCrory unveiled Connect NC. More than $700 million of the $2.8 billion bond proposal would be used for infrastructure to support research and innovation at community colleges and universities throughout North Carolina.
"North Carolina's community college and university systems are among our state's most important assets and I'm committed to supporting them in their efforts to prepare North Carolina's next generation with needed skills," Governor McCrory said.
Forsyth Technical Community College's graduation ceremony will be at 5 p.m. in the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem and is free and open to the public.
Here is a video of Gov. McCrory speaking at his alma mater Catawba College in 2013.
Jason Kilar, former CEO of Hulu
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sun. May 10
Jason Kilar hit the ground running after he graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1993. The business entrepreneur started working at Amazon the Monday after his final college exam. Then in 2007, he helped found the popular video-steaming service Hulu. Now he sits on the board of directors for DreamWorks Animation and develops a new mobile video app called Vessel. But he is still excited to reunite with his alma mater and give words of advice to a new generation of entrepreneurs.
“There are few things in life that approach the beauty of a sunny Sunday in May in Chapel Hill," Kilar said. "I look forward to returning this spring to the University that I love, to pause by the Old Well, and most importantly, to proudly celebrate the class of 2015 as they set off to change the world.”
Kilar will speak to graduates on Sunday, May 10 at 9 a.m. in Kenan Stadium. The ceremony is open to the public.
Here is a video from UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School on Kilar's work with Hulu:
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
North Carolina Central University, Sat. May 9
During his time as Secretary of Education, Duncan has pushed through programs like Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation and helped create 325,000 teaching jobs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
He has helped guide students to a college education through the Federal Pell Grant program and took the time to personally congratulate the 2015 NCCU graduating class with this video.
Duncan will speak to more than 650 undergraduates on Saturday, May 9 at O' Kelly-Riddick Stadium in Raleigh.
Paul Farmer, Global Health Leader
Duke University, Sun. May 10
Dr. Paul Farmer is an anthropologist and physician who has led efforts to improve health conditions for people in countries like Haiti. Farmer graduated summa cum laude from Duke in 1982. Five years later, he became the director of Partners in Health, an international nonprofit organization that offers direct health care services to people living in poverty.
"In Haiti, Rwanda, and most recently in the regions afflicted with Ebola, Paul has spent his life bringing the benefits of advanced medicine to places without the economic resources many of us take for granted," Duke University President Ricahard Brodhead said in a statement. "He is a great speaker, he’ll have a powerful message, and he loves Duke. I’m delighted that he has agreed to be our commencement speaker.”
Duke University will award degrees to more than 5,100 undergraduate, graduate and professional students during the ceremony at 9 a.m. in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham on Sunday, May 10. The event is not open to public and will be streamed on Duke's YouTube channel.
Wiley Cash, Novelist
University of North Carolina at Asheville, Sat. May 9
Cash graduated from UNC-Asheville 15 years ago and has since written two award-winning best-selling novels. His two books, A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road To Mercy, feature life in the rural landscape of Western North Carolina. Cash told UNC-Asheville he plans to use the speech as an opportunity to tell the students to pursue their passion before what's practical.
“I’m probably going to talk about how to love what you do and do what you love, and have security in that kind of pursuit.”
UNC-Asheville's commencement will begin at 9 a.m. on May 9 in Kimmel Arena for the approximately 470 college graduates and their ticketed guests.
G.K. Butterfield, U.S. Representative for North Carolina
Shaw University, Sat. May 9
Rep. Butterfield (D-NC First District) is Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and will give the commencement speech during the 150th anniversary of Shaw University. Butterfield is a North Carolina-native and has served the First District of North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2004. He has practiced law in Wilson, NC, served on the North Carolina Supreme Court and has stood alongside "Moral Monday" protesters.
Butterfield will address the graduates at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 9 at Raleigh's Convention Center. The event is open to the public.
France A. Córdova, National Science Foundation Director
North Carolina State University, Sat. May 9
As Director of the National Science Foundation, Córdova leads the only government science agency that advances education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She has also served as president emerita at Purdue University, physics professor at University of California at Santa Barbara and chief scientist at NASA.
Córdova will speak to the public and graduates on Saturday, May 9, at 9 a.m. at the PNC Arena in Raleigh.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President
UNC School of the Arts, Sat. May 9
Boone Isaacs' has been the public relations executive for an impressive number of blockbuster films, including:
The King's Speech
"Boone Isaacs’ inspiring leadership, entrepreneurship, and 30 years of experience in one of the world’s most competitive businesses will provide great insights for graduates in every discipline," said Chancellor Lindsay Bierman.
Boone Isaacs will deliver her address at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 9, in the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem. Attendees must have a ticket for the event.
Jo Allen, Meredith College President
Meredith College, Sat. May 9
It is tradition at Meredith College for the students to pick their commencement speaker. This year they chose their college president Jo Allen. Allen graduated from Meredith College in 1980, and became the first alumna to serve as the college's president in 2011.
“We asked Dr. Allen to be our commencement speaker because of her unique relationship with our class,” said Senior Class President Alexis Trell. “Her first year as president was our freshman year, so we have grown with her over the last four years at Meredith.
Allen will speak to approximately 440 graduates on Saturday, May 9 at 7 p.m. in the J.S. Dorton Arena at the NC State Fairgrounds. The ceremony is open to the public.