2021 Commencement speaker announced, honorary degree recipients to be honored

Michael Brown will speak on Monday, May 17, 2021 at Gettysburg College’s Commencement Ceremony for Class of 2021.

The 10:30 a.m. ceremony will take place—rain or shine—in Musselman Stadium. The ceremony will also be livestreamed for remote viewing.

Headshot of Michael BrownInitially slated to speak at the Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2020, Brown was rescheduled to speak in May 2021 after last year’s ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2020 has been rescheduled to September 26, 2021, and the Commencement speaker will be announced shortly.

Brown is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He currently serves as the president of Harvard’s Board of Overseers, as well as Senior Advisor and Co-Founder of City Year, a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for recent college graduates to pay it forward by serving as full-time tutors, mentors, and role models in high-need schools of 29 cities in the United States.

“At Gettysburg College, we are committed to graduating students who go on to lead lives of contribution and service. Michael Brown’s experience reflects the difference an individual can make by getting involved. Michael was concerned about the consequences of the nation’s flagging high school graduation rate and the related problems presented by underperforming schools,” President Bob Iuliano said. “Michael honors us by speaking at this year’s Commencement. His example should serve as inspiration for every student and graduate who wants to find a way to make our society more just and inclusive.”

Honorary Degrees

Brown will receive an honorary degree from the College during the 2021 Commencement Ceremony alongside Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Jean Driscoll, a Hall of Fame Paralympian for Team USA.

Marian Wright Edelman

Headshot of Marian Wright EdelmanA graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman began her career in the mid-60s when, as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans, and under her leadership as president of the Children’s Defense Fund or 45 years, the organization has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.

Jean Driscoll

Headshot of Jean DriscollDriscoll is a graduate of the University of Illinois, and in addition to a whole host of athletic accomplishments, she is a motivational speaker, author, and a worldwide advocate for people with disabilities. She’s traveled to Ghana, West Africa, on many occasions to teach athletes and coaches about the sport of wheelchair track. In 2003 Driscoll teamed up with Joni and Friends, Inc. and five Rotary Clubs, bringing two coaches and eight athletes from Ghana to the U.S., where they were fitted with their first wheelchairs and racing chairs.

About the speaker:

After Harvard, Brown served as a legislative assistant to then Congressman Leon Panetta and as a clerk for Federal Judge Stephen Breyer. In 1988, Brown founded City Year Inc., leading its initiatives for 30 years, including 13 years as CEO.

City Year served as an inspiration for AmeriCorps, through which more than one million Americans have served their country. Since its start, City Year has 32,000 alumni who have contributed more than 54 million hours of service and earned access to more than $150 million in college scholarships through the AmeriCorps National Service Trust.

City Year also has affiliates in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Through its national initiative, “In School and On Track: A National Challenge,” City Year aims to significantly increase the urban graduation pipeline in America.

For his work developing City Year and advancing the national service movement, Brown has been awarded the Reebok Human Rights Award and Independent Sector’s John W. Gardner Leadership Award. He was also named one of America’s Best Leaders by US News & World Report and an Executive of the Year and member of The Power and Influence Top 50 by The NonProfit Times.

For more information about Commencement, please refer to the Commencement website, which will be updated frequently as the weekend approaches.