University of Pennsylvania
Commencement Speakers Since 1938
For transcripts of recent commencement addresses, please visit the Almanac website and search "Commencement" and the year of the address you are interested in.
Selected Commencement Addresses from 1899-present are also available on the University Archives and Records Center website.
List of Speakers
This list includes speakers at special mid-year Convocations through 1953.
Ken Burns, Documentary Filmaker. Recipient of 16 Emmy Awards and two Academy Award nominations.
Laurene Powell Jobs, C’85, W’85, Impact investor and social justice advocate, Founder and President, Emerson Collective, Founder and Board Chair, College Track, Co-Founder and Board Chair, The XQ Institute
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Author, Educator, and International Speaker, MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
Bryan Stevenson, Public interest lawyer and author; Founder and Executive Director, The Equal Justice Initiative which in 2018 created the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Andrea Mitchell, CW’67, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, NBC News; Host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” MSNBC.
Cory A. Booker, United States Senator for New Jersey, Advocate for criminal justice reform and community empowerment.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Composer, writer, and performing artist, Grammy, Tony, and MacArthur award recipient.
Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author.
John Legend, C'99, Grammy-award winning songwriter and musician.
Joseph R. Biden, Jr., 47th Vice President of the United States.
Geoffrey Canada, President and Chief Executive Officer, Educational Innovator and Advocate.
Denzel Washington, Academy Award Winning & Tony Award Winning Actor, Director.
Jon Huntsman, C'87, U.S. Ambassador to China.
Eric E. Schmidt, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Google, Inc.
Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York.
James A. Baker, III, 61st U.S. Secretary of State.
Jodie Foster, Actress, Producer and Director.
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations with the United Nations, recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.
Bono, Co-Founder, DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa), Lead singer, U2.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chancellor, University of the Western Cape, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient.
Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor and Anchor, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
John McCain, United States Senator, Arizona.
Seamus Heaney, Poet, Critic, and Translator, 1995 Nobel Laureate in Literature.
Robert E. Rubin, Secretary of the Treasury.
Jimmy Carter, Thirty-Ninth President of the United States.
William H. Cosby, Entertainer and Educator (stricken from the roll of honorary degree recipients on February 1, 2018).
Tom Brokaw, Television Journalist.
Jane Alexander, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts.
Henry G. Cisneros, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady of the United States.
Ismael Mahomed, Justice, Supreme Court of South Africa.
Ted Koppel, Television Journalist.
Barbara Bush, First Lady of the United States.
Mike Wallace, Television Journalist.
Patricia Schroeder, Congresswoman.
Riccardo Muti, Conductor, Philadelphia Orchestra.
Michael Brown, Nobel Laureate in Medicine.
Donald Regan, Secretary of the Treasury.
Wilson Goode, Mayor of Philadelphia.
Ellen Goodman, Syndicated columnist.
Sol Linowitz, Former Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Former Chairman of Xerox.
Vernon Jordan, President, National Urban League.
The Lord Annan, OBE Vice Chancellor, University of London.
Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury creator.
Patricia Harris, Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Hubert H. Humphrey, United States Senator.
Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court.
Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States.
Milton J. Shapp, Governor of Pennsylvania.
The Rt. Hon. Roy Jenkins, M.P., Former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Former Deputy Leader of the British Labour Party.
John H. Knowles, President-Elect, Rockefeller Foundation.
David Riesman, Henry Ford Professor of Social Sciences, Harvard University.
Martin Meyerson, University of Pennsylvania President-Designate.
Lady Barbara Ward Jackson, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University.
William S. Paley, Chairman of the Board, Columbia Broadcasting System.
Raymond P. Shafer, Governor of Pennsylvania.
Robert C. Weaver, Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Sir John Bruce, Professor of Clinical Surgery, University of Edinburgh.
William W. Scranton, Governor of Pennsylvania.
Francis Keppel, United States Commissioner of Education.
Clarence D. Dillon, Secretary of the Treasury.
Crawford H. Greenawalt, President, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
The Hon. John Jay McCloy, President, World Bank; U.S. Military Governor and High Commissioner for Germany.
Robert S. Aitken, Vice Chancellor and Principal, University of Birmingham.
Robert Dechert, General Counsel, Department of Defense.
Frank C. James, Principal and Vice Chancellor, McGill University.
Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., United Nations Representative for the United States.
Franklin D. Murphy, Chancellor, University of Kansas.
Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr., Judge, United States District Court for Massachusetts.
February - Harry E. Humphreys, Jr., Chairman, H.S. Rubber Company.
June - Milton S. Eisenhower, President, Pennsylvania State University.
February - Boyd L. Spahr, President, Board of Trustees, Dickinson College.
June - Henry M. Wriston, President, Brown University.
February - George K. Funston, President, Trinity College February Alfred H. Williams.
June - James R. Killian, Jr., President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
September - Robert Strausz-Hupe, Professor of Political Science.
February - Paul G. Hoffman.
June - Thomas K. Finletter, Secretary of the Air Force.
February - John Foster Dulles, Member of United States Delegation to the United Nations.
June - Detlev W. Bronk, President, Johns Hopkins.
August - William Edel, President, Dickinson College.
February - George K. Funston, President, Trinity College.
March - Esmond R. Long, Director, Henry Phipps Institute.
June - James F. Byrnes, Former Secretary of State, Congressman, and Supreme Court Justice.
August - Paul W. Bruton, Professor of Law.
February - James Creese, President, Drexel Institute of Technology.
March - Chester I. Barnard, President, New Jersey Bell Telephone Company.
June - Margaret Mead, Associate Curator, American Museum of Natural History.
August - Earl G. Harrison, Vice President in Charge of Law School.
February - J. Robert Oppenheimer, Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology.
March - William S. Middleton, Dean of Medical School, University of Wisconsin.
June - Nochem S. Winnet, Judge of Municipal Court, Philadelphia.
June - Quo Tai-Chi, United Nations Security Council Representative, China.
August - Herbert F. Goodrich, Judge, United States Circuit Court of Appeals.
March - Abraham A. Neuman, President, Dropsie College.
June - Thomas J.S. Waxter, Public Welfare Administrator.
June - Samuel T. Orton, Physician and Investigator.
June - Arthur T. Vanderbilt, Dean of the Law School, New York University.
October - Virginia C. Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College.
March - Ralph B. Perry, Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University.
June - Earl G. Harrison, United States Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization.
July - Glenn R. Morrow, Dean of the College.
September - Capt. Richard A. Kern, Chief of Medicine, United States Naval Hospital.
October - Charles F. Jenkins, President, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
February - Henning W. Prentis, Jr., Industrialist.
June - John E. Pomfret, President, College of William and Mary.
October - Rufus H. Fitzgerald, Vice Chancellor, University of Pittsburgh.
December - Edwin G. Conklin, President, American Philosophical Society.
February - Douglas S. Freeman, Editor.
June - Rex S. Clements, Minister, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.
September - Oliver J. Hart, Bishop Coadjutor Elect of Pennsylvania.
February - Felix M. Morley, President, Haverford College.
June - Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress.
February - Frank P. Graves, Commissioner for Education for New York.
June - William E. Lingelbach, Dean of the College.
September - Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States.
February - Joseph H. Willits, Former Dean, Wharton School.
June - Josiah H. Penniman, Provost of the University.
February - John D. Spaeth, President, University of Kansas City.
June - James R. Angell, Former President, Yale University.
June - Gustave Adolf, Crown Prince of Sweden.