Former U.S. Secretary of Education Will Speak at UofM Commencement

May 2, 2017 - The University of Memphis will hold its spring Commencement Saturday, May 6, in two ceremonies at FedExForum. The University will confer a total of 2,505 degrees, including 56 doctorates.

During the 10 a.m. ceremony, students from the College of Arts & Sciences, College of Communication and Fine Arts and University College will receive degrees. At the 2:30 p.m. session, degrees will be awarded to students from the Fogelman College of Business & Economics, Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management, College of Education, School of Health Studies, Herff College of Engineering, Loewenberg College of Nursing, School of Public Health and School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

The featured speaker for both ceremonies will be John B. King Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps from preschool through college. He also will be awarded an honorary doctorate during the afternoon ceremony.

King served as the U.S. Secretary of Education from 2016-2017 as a member of President Barack Obama's administration. In tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, Obama called King "an exceptionally talented educator," citing his commitment to "preparing every child for success" and his lifelong dedication to education as a teacher, principal and leader of schools and school systems.

In January 2015, King was named U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, overseeing all policies and programs related to P-12 education, English learners, special education, and innovation. In this role, he also oversaw the agency's operations. King joined the department following his tenure as the first African-American and Puerto Rican to serve as New York State Education Commissioner, a post he held from 2011-2015. He began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Puerto Rico and in Boston and as a middle school principal.

King's life story is a testament to the transformative power of education. Both of his parents were career New York City public school educators who served as enduring inspiration. They passed away when he was 12 years old. King credits New York City public school teachers for saving his life by providing him with rich and engaging educational experiences and by giving him hope for the future.

He holds a BA in government from Harvard University and a JD from Yale Law School, as well as a master of arts in the teaching of social studies and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University. 

Contact: Gabrielle Maxey