Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia... Ivy League Universities announce their Class of 2019 Commencement Day keynote speakers

Posted a year ago

The end of May is a time of celebration for tens of thousands of college students who don their caps and gowns and say goodbye to their undergraduate campus for the last time.

Graduation day is marked by a Commencement Ceremony which may seem somewhat ironic given the day celebrates the ‘end’ of the students’ time at college. But the day also represents the beginning of a new phase of the students’ lives as they embark on their graduate degrees or newfound careers.

Needless to say, Commencement Day is a very exciting one for the students and their families - one of the reasons being many universities invite some very inspiring speakers to address the audience. In the case of the Ivy League and other top universities like Stanford and MIT, commencement speakers are often some of the most famous, powerful and inspirational people on the planet and 2019 is no exception!

The following is a list of some of this year’s Ivy league commencement speakers - a more!


This year Harvard welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the keynote speaker at their 368th commencement ceremony. Merkel, who is often hailed as the most powerful figure in the Eurpean Union, will be the principal speaker in the ceremony’s afternoon program, which will take place in Harvard’s Tercentenary Theatre on May 30.


At Yale University, like most of the other Ivies, the keynote address will be given by the university president, in this case, Yale’s Peter Salovey. But in addition to President Salovey, Yale will welcome author and Yale alumni, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as the 2019 Class Day Speaker. Adichie - who has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people - will address Yale faculty, graduates and their families at the university’s ceremony on May 19.


As with Yale, Princeton’s president Christopher Eisgruber will be giving the commencement address, but the university has also invited author, actress and alumni, Ellie Kemper to address the outgoing Class of 2019. While Kemper is known for her roles in TV series ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ and ‘The Office’ (she also completed a post-grad English degree at Oxford!), she is also one of generations of Kemper women - including her mother Dorothy and her aunt Julie, who were advocates for women’s rights and the arts at Princeton.


In continuing with the annual tradition, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger will serve as the commencement speaker for the whole school, but individual colleges will also invite their own commencement speakers. For example, Columbia’s Barnard College will welcome actress, humanitarian and activist Viola Davis as their College keynote speaker.


UPenn has invited lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative - a criminal justice reform organization to address the outgoing class of 2019. As is also often tradition, Stevenson will also be receiving an honorary degree from the university. Stevenson, who is also the best-selling author of the novel “Just Mercy” which received the NAACP Image Award, will give his address on May 20.


In line with tradition, Cornell’s President Martha E. Pollack will deliver Cornell’s commencement address. However, Cornell also hold a Senior Class Convocation ceremony which this year will include a speech by Alumni and scientist, Bill Nye. Nye who is a science educator, engineer, comedian, television personality and author also serves as the CEO of the Planetary Society, the world’s largest space-interest group.


Once again per tradition, Brown University President Christina Paxson will give the keynote address to the outgoing class of 2019. However, the university will also welcome actor, director and Brown alumni John Krasinski as a guest speaker at the university’s Baccalaureate Service. Krasinski, perhaps best known for his role in TV series, ‘The Office’, is also the director of the 2018 Academy Award nominated film ‘A Quiet Place.’ Krasinski will be awarded an honorary degree at his alma mater during the commencement ceremony on May 26.


This year, Dartmouth will host renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma as the keynote speaker at their commencement ceremony. The 19-time Grammy Award winner who has also served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2006 and was part of President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 2009, will also receive a doctor of arts honorary degree from the College.


Other commencement keynote speakers for the class of 2019 include: Stanford - Apple CEO Tim Cook, Colorado College - Oprah Winfrey, MIT - entrepreneur and businessman Michael Bloomberg, Johns Hopkins University - journalist and Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg and UC San Diego - former US Secretary of State - Madeleine Albright.

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