2020 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients Announcement

Dear members of the Gettysburg College community,

I am honored to announce that Michael Brown, senior advisor and co-founder of City Year, will speak at Gettysburg College’s 185th Commencement Ceremony on May 17.

Named as one of America’s best leaders by U.S. News & World Report, Mr. Brown’s experience and illustrious career reflect the difference an individual can make by getting involved, and by leading a life of service and contribution.

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Brown founded City Year in 1988 to inspire young people to “give a year and change the world.” City Year inspired the creation of AmeriCorps, through which more than one million young Americans have now served their country.

Spearheading the nonprofit’s initiatives over the next 30 years, including 13 years as CEO, Mr. Brown—concerned about the consequences of our nation’s flagging high school graduate rate and the related problems presented by underperforming schools—helped to create immersion opportunities for new college graduates to “pay it forward” by serving as full-time tutors, mentors, and role models in high-need schools across 29 U.S. cities. Today, these efforts have equated to 32,000 City Year alumni contributing more than 54 million hours of service for the greater good.

As an academic community committed to shaping a more just and inclusive world, we have much to learn from Mr. Brown and the example he has set to empower those around him and transform the lives of so many within our society.

At Commencement, we will also be awarding honorary degree to two people, in addition to Mr. Brown, who have helped to shape the world in powerful ways and who have underscored the possibilities inherent in the human spirit: Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Jean Driscoll, a Hall of Fame Paralympian for Team USA.

A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Ms. 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 for 45 years, the organization has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.

Ms. Driscoll 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, Ms. 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.

I encourage all members of the Gettysburg College community to join our Class of 2020 graduates at this year’s Commencement Ceremony, to reflect upon Mr. Brown’s address and the life lessons reflected by our honorary degree recipients, and to shape our own life paths with these lives as a source of inspiration and guidance.


Bob Iuliano