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Press Release  
Release Date: Friday, May 24, 2013 4:00 PM
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Rachel Mann
Communications Specialist
Howard University Announces 2012 Commencement Honorees
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Deliver Address

WASHINGTON (April 17, 2012) – Howard University will host the 144th Commencement Convocation on Saturday, May 12, at 10 a.m., on the upper quadrangle of the main campus. The University will award honorary degrees to four distinguished leaders in fields of communication, business, and the arts. This year’s honorees are musician and humanitarian John Legend, MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and alumna Isabel Wilkerson, and Julieanna L. Richardson, a leader in preserving African-American oral history.

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, was recently named as the orator for the 2012 commencement ceremony. Prior to his appointment, Duncan served as the chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools. From 1987 to 1991, Duncan played professional basketball in Australia, where he worked with children who were wards of the state. Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987.

The University has traditionally honored exemplary leaders in a variety of fields during the commencement exercise. This year’s honorees are internationally known and are among the best in their fields.

John Legend is a recording artist, concert performer and philanthropist. He has won nine Grammy awards and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. Legend launched his career as a session player and vocalist, contributing to best-selling recordings by Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Kanye West before recording his own unbroken chain of Top 10 albums. Throughout his career, Legend  has worked to make a difference in the lives of others.  He was awarded the 2010 BET Humanitarian of the Year award, the CARE Humanitarian Award for Global Change in June 2009 and received the 2009 Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award from Africare.
Chris Matthews began his career on television in 1994 as host of a two-hour nightly program on the NBC-owned America’s Talking network. Three years later, he launched Hardball, now on MSNBC, which was the title of his best-selling book on real-life politics published in 1988.  He has been on the air every weekday night since. In 2002, NBC inaugurated Sunday morning’s The Chris Matthews Show. He is the author of five best-selling books:  Hardball: How Politics is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game; Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry that Shaped Postwar America; Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think; American: Beyond our Grandest Notions; and Life’s a Campaign. His most recent best-selling book, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, brings to bear everything he has learned through a lifetime of watching American politics in action, as well as all the love he has for this country, its history and its hopes.
Isabel Wilkerson (B.A. ‘83) won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for her reporting as Chicago bureau chief of The New York Times. The award made her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting. She won the George Polk Award for her coverage of the Midwest and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for her research into the Great Migration. During the Great Migration, her parents journeyed from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington, D.C., where she was born and reared. The Warmth of Other Suns was named a New York Times Best Book of the Year, and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Mark Lynton History Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prizefor Nonfiction, the Sidney Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, the Stephen E. Ambrose Oral History Award, the NAACP Image Award for Best Literary Debut, and the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction. Wilkerson earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Howard in 1983.
Julieanna L. Richardson is the founder of the largest national collection effort of African American video oral histories on record. She has a diverse background in the humanities, corporate law, television production and the cable television industries and a passion for American Studies and history. She founded The HistoryMakers, a national, non-profit educational institution headquartered in Chicago, which is committed to preserving an internationally recognized archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories. Richardson graduated magna cum laude with a double major in Theatre Arts and American Studies from Brandeis University in 1976.  It was during her studies at Brandeis that she first experienced the power of oral history, while conducting independent research on the Harlem Renaissance and poet and author Langston Hughes.Richardson received her J.D. degree in 1980 from Harvard Law School.
Graduation exercises will be streamed live on, broadcast live over Howard University’s WHUR 96.3 FM and WHUT-TV, Howard University’s public broadcast station. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place at Burr Gymnasium, 6th and Girard Streets, N.W.

WHAT: Howard University’s 144th Commencement Exercise

WHEN: Saturday, May 12, 2012, 10 a.m.

WHERE: Howard University, Upper Quadrangle of Main Campus (6th and Howard Place, NW), Washington, D.C.

Note to the Media
Please be advised that media coverage must be coordinated by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 10, 2012. All broadcast media must be stationary by 8:30 a.m.


Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 30 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University's Web site at

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