Vernon Jordan '57 Returning to DePauw to Address Class of 2018 at May's 179th Commencement
November 24, 2017
Vernon E. Jordan Jr. -- the civil rights legend, attorney and 1957 graduate of DePauw University -- who Newsweek calls "a veteran dealmaker and one of the nation's most prominent African-Americans" -- will return to his alma mater to deliver the commencement address to DePauw's Class of 2018. The University's 179th Commencement will take place on Sunday, May 20, in Holton Memorial Quadrangle.
"Student government leaders polled our undergraduates to see who they would like to hear give the final speech they will hear as DePauw students and I was thrilled that they suggested Vernon Jordan," says DePauw President D. Mark McCoy. "His life story is a stunning example of the 'uncommon success' of our graduates, and his personal connection to this college is deep and profound. Vernon is a role model and dear friend to me. And, of course, everyone knows that he delivers speeches that are unforgettable."
This will be Jordan’s third commencement speech at DePauw; he previously addressed graduates in 1973 and 1993. He is the first person in DePauw's 180-year history to be called upon three times as commencement speaker who was not a bishop of the Methodist Church (Francis John McConnell and Edwin Holt Hughes, both addressed DePauw graduates four times [McConnell: 1919, 1924, 1930 and 1947]; [Hughes: 1919, 1924, 1930 and 1947]). William Fraser McDowell spoke in 1902, 1908 and 1920.
An advisory member of DePauw's Board of Trustees, Jordan has been a regular visitor to campus since he earned his diploma 60 years ago. He delivered a powerful Ubben Lecture at the October 2016 inauguration of President McCoy.
A legendary figure in the civil rights movement and the former president of the National Urban League, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. has advised U.S. presidents, and was on campus in November 2011 to introduce his good friend, America's 42nd president, Bill Clinton, who delivered an Ubben Lecture before 5,000 people in the Lilly Center. Jordan is a partner at Lazard Frères & Co. LLC in New York and senior managing director of Lazard Group LLC. He is also of counsel/senior counsel at Akin Gump.
Vernon Jordan has also served as executive director of the United Negro College Fund, Inc.; director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council; attorney-consultant, U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity; assistant to the executive director of the Southern Regional Council; Georgia Field Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and an attorney in private practice in Arkansas and Georgia. (above right: Jordan as a DePauw student)
His presidential appointments include: the President's Advisory Committee for the Points of Light Initiative Foundation; the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa; the Advisory Council on Social Security; the Presidential Clemency Board; the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission; the National Advisory Committee on Selective Service; and the Council of the White House Conference "To Fulfill These Rights." In 1992, Jordan served as the chairman of the Clinton Presidential Transition Team.
A political science major as an undergraduate at DePauw, Jordan went on to earn his law degree at Howard University. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from more than 60 colleges and universities in America, including DePauw. He is the author of Vernon Can Read! A Memoir and Make It Plain: Standing Up and Speaking Out.
In December 2009, Jordan was one of eight individuals presented with the Du Bois Medal, the highest honor awarded by the Harvard University Institute of Politics' W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. He's also been honored with the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP's highest honor for achievement, the Trumpet Award, and DePauw's Old Gold Goblet and McNaughton Medal for Public Service. In June he received the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession's Award for Global Leadership.
In his 1993 commencement address at DePauw, Jordan declared, "DePauw expanded my mind, broadened my horizons, lifted my sights, prepared me to serve and to lead and nurtured my growth and maturity. I made lasting friendships here. If I had my life to live over again, I would return to this place."
Founded in 1837 as Indiana Asbury, DePauw University is a private, selective, coeducational, residential, undergraduate College of Liberal Arts and School of Music with an enrollment of 2,226.Back