Past Commencement Speakers

Commencement 2023 Speakers

At Marymount University’s upcoming 72nd annual commencement ceremonies, newest graduates of the mission-based university will hear from three distinguished speakers – former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell, longtime government contracting leader Dr. Edward Bersoff and current Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky.


Michael K. Powell

Speaker for the College of Business, Innovation, Leadership, and Technology, May 19, 2023

Commencement SpeakersMichael K. Powell is the former Chairman of the FCC, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001 and serving until 2005. He was nominated to the Commission by President William Clinton in 1997. During his time as FCC chair, Powell oversaw the rapid transformation of communications markets into the digital age – as the Internet, smartphones, Wi-Fi networks and satellite radio all came into widespread commercial use during his tenure.

In his current role as President and CEO of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, Powell leads one of the largest trade associations in Washington, D.C., representing the communications and content industries. His prior public service includes roles as Chief of Staff of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, Policy Advisor to the Secretary of Defense and armored cavalry officer in the U.S. Army. In the private sector, he’s practiced law and was a senior advisor in a private equity firm, while also serving on the public boards of Cisco and AOL.

Currently, Powell is the Chairman of the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees, Vice Chairman of America’s Promise Alliance and serves on the William & Mary Foundation Board. He received his bachelor’s degree in government from William & Mary and his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

Dr. Edward Bersoff

Speaker for the College of Science and Humanities, May 20, 2023

Commencement SpeakersDr. Edward Bersoff, a retired military officer who previously worked at NASA and a leader in the government contracting world for more than 50 years, is the Chairman of Marymount’s Board of Trustees, the Bethesda-based business advisory firm Greenwich Associates, LLC, and the Northern Virginia business finance company Parabilis, LLC. During his business career, he has served as the CFO of a public company, lead director of three public companies, chaired the audit committee of two public companies and served on the audit, governance and compensation committees of other public companies.

Deeply involved in business, community and professional activities, Dr. Bersoff was the first Chairman of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a past Chairman of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and a former Director of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. He also was a founder and first Chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, and was appointed by Virginia’s governor to serve on the Board of the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan, where he recently completed his service as its Chair.

Dr. Bersoff holds multiple degrees in mathematics from New York University and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management Program. Among his many accolades, he was named a Laureate of the Washington Business Hall of Fame in 2020 for his lasting and significant impact on the greater Washington region through the private sector economy and his service as a role model for the next generation of leaders. He’s also an inducted member of the Greater Washington Government Contractor Hall of Fame.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky

Speaker for the College of Health and Education, May 21, 2023

Commencement SpeakersDr. Rochelle Walensky is the Director of the CDC and Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. An influential scholar, her pioneering research has helped advance the national and global response to HIV/AIDS. She is also a well-respected expert on the value of testing and treatment of deadly viruses.

From 2017-2020, Dr. Walensky was Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, while also serving as Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2012-2020. She worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as she conducted research on vaccine delivery and created strategies to reach underserved communities.

Dr. Walensky is recognized internationally for her work to improve HIV screening and care in South Africa, and nationally for motivating health policy and informing clinical trial design and evaluation in a variety of settings. She is a past Chair of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council at the National Institutes of Health and Chair-elect of the HIV Medical Association, and previously served as an advisor to both the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

Originally from Maryland, Dr. Walensky received her Bachelor of Arts from Washington University in St. Louis, her Doctor of Medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and her Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

2022 Commencement Speakers

At Marymount University’s upcoming 71st annual commencement ceremonies, newest graduates of the mission-based university will hear from three distinguished speakers – the first female Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., Princess Reema; physicist and former NASA research center director Dr. Julian M. Earls; and global financier and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Speaker for the College of Health and Education, May 13, 2022

Commencement Speakers

Appointed Ambassador to the U.S. in 2019, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the first woman in the history of Saudi Arabia to serve in her position and has been a prominent figure in advocating for increased gender equity and women’s empowerment in her home country.

She began her public service career in 2016 as Vice President of Women’s Affairs at the Saudi General Sports Authority and later served as President of the Mass Participation Federation – making her the first woman to lead a multi-sports federation in Saudi Arabia. In addition to her current Ambassador role, she is a member of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee’s Women in Sports Commission, and the World Bank’s advisory council for the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.

Prior to public service, Princess Reema was the CEO of a luxury retail company that commissioned a study on obstacles for women in the workplace, resulting in opening the first workplace nursery in a retail store. She also founded the social enterprise Alf Khair, which aims to elevate the professional capital of Saudi women through financial self-sufficiency. Princess Reema’s local ties are extensive – growing up in nearby Fairfax County, Va., after moving to the U.S. at the age of seven, as well as attending George Washington University and earning a bachelor’s degree in museum studies. Click here for full biographical information on Princess Reema.

Dr. Julian M. Earls

Speaker for the College of Science and Humanities, May 14, 2022

Commencement Speakers

Dr. Julian M. Earls, a Virginia native, was the Director of NASA’s
Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland from 2003
to 2005, and previously served as Deputy Director. Responsible for planning, organizing, and directing the Center’s missions, he engaged in research, technology, and systems development programs in aeronautical and space propulsion,
space power and communications, and microgravity sciences in combustion and fluid physics. He oversaw 24 major facilities and more than 500 specialized research facilities with a $773 million annual budget.

Since beginning his NASA career in 1965, Dr. Earls has written
28 publications for technical and educational journals – including the first health physics guide used at NASA. He’s been awarded NASA medals for exceptional achievement and outstanding leadership, and also received the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive.

A trailblazer for diversity, Dr. Earls became the Center’s first African American section head, office chief, division chief, and deputy director over the course of his career. He’s well known for his generous mentorship of employees and students and is an active proponent of equal opportunity. He was elected into the inaugural class of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, and founded the Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology – an endowment that raises scholarships for Black students who major in technical disciplines at historically Black colleges.

Dr. Earls holds a doctorate degree in radiation physics from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in radiation biology from the University of Rochester, and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Norfolk State University. Click here for full biographical information on Dr. Earls.

David M. Rubenstein

Speaker for the College of Business, Innovation, Leadership, and Technology, May 15, 2022

Commencement Speakers

Forging a distinguished career in law, government, and business, David M. Rubenstein is co-founder and co-chairman of The Carlyle Group – one of the world’s largest and most successful private investment firms, now managing $301 billion from 26 offices around the world. Prior to establishing Carlyle in 1987, he practiced law and served as Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor in the Carter Administration.

In addition to his wide-ranging business interests, Rubenstein is an active philanthropist. He is Chairman of the boards of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Gallery of Art, the Economic Club of Washington, and the University of Chicago. He also serves on the boards of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Institute for Advanced Study, the National Constitution Center, the Brookings Institution, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the World Economic Forum.

Rubenstein is the host of The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations on Bloomberg TV and PBS and Bloomberg Wealth with David Rubenstein on Bloomberg TV. He’s also the author of The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians; How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers; and The American Experiment: Dialogues on a Dream.

Rubenstein is a Duke University and the University of Chicago Law School graduate. Click here for full biographical information on Mr. Rubenstein.

2021 Commencement Speakers

At Marymount University’s upcoming 70th annual commencement ceremonies our newest graduates will hear from three distinguished commencement speakers – influential Virginian James Dyke, Jr., entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila Johnson, and business leader Donald Graham.

Both Dyke and Johnson will receive honorary degrees during the commencement ceremonies. Graham, who previously received an honorary degree when he was a commencement speaker at Marymount in 1990, will be presented with the Mother Gerard Phelan Gold Medal, which is awarded for achievements of an exemplary nature. Past recipients have included First Lady Nancy Reagan, Baroness Maria von Trapp, and others.

James Dyke, Jr.

Speaker for the College of Health and Education, May 14, 2021

Commencement SpeakersJames Dyke, Jr. is a Senior Advisor of State Government Relations at McGuireWoods Consulting. He previously served as Virginia’s Secretary of Education under Gov. Douglas Wilder, and as a domestic policy advisor to former Vice President Walter Mondale.

He has been a prominent figure in politics for over 30 years and has broad career experience in corporate, legislative, education, governmental relations, economic development, and municipal law. He was recently named to the Virginia 500: The 2020 Power List by Virginia Business.

In 2010, Dyke was elected chairman of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the largest regional business organization in the Washington area. He has also served on the WMATA Board of Directors, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Northern Virginia Business Roundtable, and State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), in addition to his work as a member of Marymount University’s Board of Trustees.

Sheila Johnson

Speaker for the College of Science and Humanities, May 15, 2021

Commencement SpeakersSheila Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which operates a collection of luxury properties with over $200 million in revenue located in Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and Jamaica. She’s also Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams – the NBA’s Wizards, NHL’s Capitals, and WNBA’s Mystics.

She’s well-known for co-founding Black Entertainment Television (BET), and becoming the first African-American woman to attain a net worth of $1 billion.

Johnson has fervently supported education and the arts through fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Jackie Robinson Foundation. She’s also served as a global ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that combats global poverty by empowering women. In recognition of her efforts and accomplishments, she’s received several awards that include the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Lincoln Medal Award, and the Women’s Sports Foundation Billie Jean King Leadership Award.

Donald Graham

Speaker for the College of Business, Innovation, Leadership and Technology, May 16, 2021

Commencement SpeakersDonald Graham is the Chairman of the Board for Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC), and former publisher of The Washington Post.

After graduating from Harvard, he served in Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division and then as a patrolman with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department. Graham then joined The Washington Post as a reporter, and soon was elected to the company’s board in 1974. He succeeded his mother, Katharine Graham, as Publisher of The Washington Post in 1979, a position he held until 2000. In addition to his leadership positions at Graham Holdings Company, he has also served on Facebook’s Board of Directors and is a trustee of the Federal City Council and Gates Policy Initiative.

Graham co-founded and served as Chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program, which has helped double the number of DC public high school students going on to college and has provided scholarships for thousands of DC students. Graham co-founded TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for DREAMers. Marymount University is one of the program’s founding partner colleges.

2020 Commencement Speakers

Senator Tim Kaine

Speaker for the Graduate Ceremony, May 31, 2020

Commencement Speakers

Sen. Tim Kaine is a lawyer and currently the U.S. Senator from Virginia since 2013. He is one of 30 people in American history to have served as a Mayor, Governor, and United States Senator.

After law school. he practiced law in Richmond for 17 years and was part of the largest civil rights jury verdicts ever in a case involving discrimination against minority neighborhoods by an insurance company. He was first elected in 1994 as Mayor of Richmond and became Virginia’s 70th Governor in 2006. Kaine improved the education and health care systems, which led Virginia the best state to raise a child and the best state for business.

At the request of President Barrack Obama, Kaine chaired the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton introduced Kaine as her vice-presidential running mate. On July 27, the 2016 Democratic national Convention officially nominated him. Then, he was re-elected in the 2018 U.S. Senate election in Virginia.

Martha Bárcena

Speaker for the Undergraduate Ceremony, May 31, 2020

Commencement Speakers

Martha Bárcena was the first female ambassador of Mexico to the United States serving from January 2019 to February 2021 and has worked in the Mexican Foreign Service since 1979.

She graduated with honors from the Universidad Iberoamericana, where she received a Bachelor’s in communication sciences. She also has a Bachelor’s in philosophy summa cum laude from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. She also attained a Master in international relations from the Diplomatic School of Spain and a Master in Philosophy from the Universidad Iberoamericana.

Ambassador Bárcena took the responsibility of the Regional Cooperation Center for Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (CREFAL) as Consultant and was Director-General of CELAG, an NGO that promoted research on Global Governance and the impact of globalization in Latin America.


2019 Commencement Speakers

Sr. Catherine Patten

Speaker for the Graduate Ceremony, Mary 19, 2019

Commencement Speakers

Sister Catherine Patten is a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary and she presented presently serves as provincial superior since 2015.

From 1976 to 1986 Sr. Catherine was at St. Mark’s House of Prayer, a ministry of the Eastern American Province of her Congregation, The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.

Sr. Catherine completed her undergraduate degree at Marymount College Tarrytown New York English philosophy and Spanish and holds a master’s degree from New York University in English. She received her Ph.D. from New York University in American civilization in 1972 and has been involved in educational and pastoral work since then. She returned to the United States in 2013 after six years in congregational leadership as a general counselor in Rome.

Susan Lacz

Speaker for the Undergraduate Ceremony, May 19, 2019

Commencement Speakers

Susan Lacz is the CEO of Bethesda-based Ridgewells Catering and Marymount alum class of 1983.

After graduation in 1983, she pursued a career in sales and catering in D.C., which led to her joining Ridgewells Catering in 1986 and becoming partner and CEO in 1997.

Susan serves on the MU board of trustees and is chairing the most ambitious capital campaign of her alma mater. She is involved on a number of boards including the Greater Washington Board of Trade, Junior Achievement, Marymount University, and Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School.

Among her accomplishments, Susan was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Greater Washington and was named to the Washington Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business and Power 100. Also, Ridgewells has received numerous industry awards including Bethesda Magazine’s Best Caterer, Special Events Magazine, Spotlight Awards, and the International Special Events Society Esprit Award for Best Event with a Legacy.


2018 Commencement Speakers

Thomas J. Donohue

Speaker for the Graduate Ceremony, May 20, 2018

Commencement Speakers

Thomas J. Donohue Sr. is the former President and CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce from 1997 to 2021. He was the first person to hold both titles concurrently in the organization’s history.

Donohue earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in business administration from Adelphi University.

Donohue led efforts to expand trade and domestic energy production, rebuild America’s infrastructure, combat an avalanche of new regulations; protect intellectual property, revitalize capital markets; and advocate for legal, tax, education, and entitlement reform.

He is a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award and the Boy Scouts of America National Capital Area Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, he holds the highest civilian honor from Germany and South Korea, and the Order of the Crown (Commander Class) presented by the Crown Prince of Belgium and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun awarded by the Government of Japan.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

Speaker for the Undergraduate Ceremony, May 20, 2018

Commencement Speakers

Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge is a prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the current Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

Bishop Burbidge holds a B.A. in Philosophy and an M.A. in Theology from St. Charles Borromeo, an M.A. in Education Administration from Villanova University, and a doctorate in Education from Immaculata College.

On June 8, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Burbidge the fifth Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. He was also appointed in October 2016 by Pope Francis as the fourth Bishop of Arlington, Virginia. He was installed on December 6, 2016, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More.


2017 Commencement Speakers

Dr. Réka Szemerkényi

Speaker for the Graduate Ceremony, May 20, 2017

Commencement Speakers

Dr. Réka Szemerkényi the Hungarian ambassador to the United States from 2015 to 2017.

Dr. Szemerkényi was state secretary for foreign policy and national security advisor to the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán from 1998 to 2002. Where she dealt with Trans-Atlantic issues, Central European regional relations, the Balkans and Russia, with a particular emphasis on energy security and cyber security. Between 2006 and 2011, she was head of international public affairs and chief advisor on international relations to the chairman of the board of MOL Group, the Hungarian Oil and Gas Company.

She completed her master’s degree in strategic studies as a Fulbright Fellow at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, and earned her doctoral degree at Péter Pázmány Catholic University of Budapest.

Dr. France A. Córdova

Speaker for the Undergraduate Ceremony, May 21, 2017

Commencement Speakers

Dr. France A. Córdova is an astrophysicist and the 14th director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). She was the eleventh President of Purdue University from 2007 to 2012. She now serves as President of the Science Philanthropy Alliance.

She is an experienced leader in science, engineering, and education with more than three decades of experience at universities and national labs.

Dr. Córdova received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University and her doctorate in physics from the California Institute of Technology. In 1997, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. She is a recipient of NASA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, and was recognized as a Kilby Laureate in 2000.


2016 Commencement Speaker

Dr. Diana Venskus

Speaker for the Graduate Ceremony, May 15, 2016

Commencement Speakers

Dr. Diana Venskus is an associate professor of physical therapy at Marymount.

She earned her Ph.D. at the Medical College of Virginia-Virginia Commonwealth University focused in Health Services Research in Health Administration and her MA from George Washington University in Education and Human Development with individual research in the development of movement systems.

Dr. Venskus’s current research interests include the development of clinical reasoning, and interprofessional education and practice. She is the 2017 APTA Journal of Physical Therapy Education, Feitelberg Award for Research. Dr. Venskus is a successful grant writer. She is a principal author on consecutive awards from the Administration on Community Living for the development and implementation of a fall prevention alliance in the northern Virginia region.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Speaker for the Undergraduate Ceremony, May 15, 2016

Commencement Speakers

Cardinal Donald Wuerl served as the sixth Archbishop of Washington, D.C., from 2006-2018 and was made a cardinal in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. He was elevated by Pope John Paul II to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle (1986–1987), and Bishop of Pittsburgh (1988–2006).

He participated in the March 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis. He serves on numerous national and international bodies and is chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, chancellor of The Catholic University of America, chairman of the board of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Foundation, and also of The Papal Foundation. He serves on a number of Vatican Congregations, Councils, and Commissions and has served as chairman of numerous committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


2015 Commencement Speakers

Todd A. Stottlemyer

Speaker for the Graduate Ceremony, May 17, 2015

Commencement Speakers

Todd A. Stottlemyer currently serves as CEO of CNSI and as a member of the company’s Board of Directors.

Prior to joining CNSI, Stottlemyer served as an Executive Vice President and member of the executive leadership team for the Inova Health System in the greater Washington, DC region, and as CEO of the Inova Center for Personalized Health, where he was responsible for the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, the Inova Translational Medicine Institute, Inova’s research programs, the Inova Strategic Investment Initiative (venture fund), and the Inova Personalized Health Accelerator.

In 2006 Washington Smart CEO magazine named him one of its 20 most-admired chief executive officers in the Washington, D.C., area. In 2012 and 2013, he was honored by the Washington Business Journal as one of the region’s 100 most-influential business leaders. In 2014, Virginia Business Magazine honored him as one of 31 people “making their mark on the commonwealth’s economy.”

Tony P. Hall

Speaker for the Undergraduate Ceremony, May 17, 2015

Commencement Speakers

Tony P. Hall is a politician, businessman, and diplomat who served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Ohio’s 3rd congressional district from 1979 to 2002. Hall had previously served in both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly.

He served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture and as chief of the United States Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, which includes the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Hall is a leading advocate for hunger relief programs and improving human rights conditions in the world. He retired from official diplomatic service in April 2006 and is now executive director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger. He is a three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian and hunger-related work.