Syracuse University

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Nominations for 2010 Commencement speaker sought

February 05, 2009

Kelly Homan Rodoski
(315) 443-3784

Kelly Homan Rodoski

Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and friends have the opportunity to submit their suggestions for the University's 2010 Commencement speaker. Suggestions can be submitted at through March 18, 2009.

This year's call for ideas is part of a new, streamlined process the University has developed for selection of a Commencement speaker. In past years, the speaker nominations have taken place in the fall semester preceding graduation. The selection process has now been moved up to the preceding spring semester-a full year before the Commencement ceremony takes place. Dates for the selection of senior class marshals and school and college marshals, who have important roles in selecting a speaker and in the Commencement ceremony, have also been moved forward.

"Moving up the selection process allows us to have access to many more potential Commencement speakers," says Susan Germain, executive director of the University's Office of Special Events, which coordinates the Commencement ceremony.

Following the March 18 deadline, Special Events will compile a list from the suggestions submitted through the website and forward the list to the University's Commencement Speaker Selection Committee.

The committee consists of the senior class marshals, marshals from each of the University's schools and colleges and the three Student Association/Graduate Student Organization-selected undergraduate and graduate representatives to the University's Board of Trustees. Led by the senior class marshals, the committee meets initially with the Chancellor to receive its charge and then meets independently to deliberate suggestions. The committee then forwards a non-ranked list of 30-50 potential speakers to the Chancellor, who makes the final decision based on appropriateness, availability and eligibility to receive an honorary degree. Criteria are posted on the Commencement website.

The 2009 University Marshals-Carissa Matthews, a senior in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and Brian Spendley, a senior in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science-co-chaired the selection committee for the 2009 speaker.

"At first, it seemed a bit daunting to be given the task of selecting the Commencement speaker. However, I quickly realized that not only was this a group effort by the committee, but also by the entire student body," says Matthews. "SU students did a fantastic job submitting speaker ideas through the Commencement website. I enjoyed that the list of potential speakers was created by students from all of the schools and colleges at the University and ESF. Their involvement was so apparent in looking at the list, on which there were leaders in fields ranging from government to education, entertainment to technology, and everything in between."

Spendley says that the committee gave much consideration to each of the names on the list it prepared. "As a committee, we really wanted to be sure that the potential speakers we suggested would appeal to the student body as a whole."

The Commencement speaker for 2009 will be announced in the coming weeks.

Previous Commencement speakers have included ABC News journalist Bob Woodruff (2008); memoirist and author Frank McCourt (2007); musician Billy Joel (2006); world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall (2005); actress Phylicia Rashad (2004); former President Bill Clinton (2003); former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (2002) and former NASA astronaut Eileen Collins (2001).

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