The Syracuse University Commencement speaker is chosen through an annual selection process that starts when students, staff, faculty, alumni, and others in the community offer speaker suggestions through this website. The rolling list of speaker suggestions is linked below. The list is collected, duplicates removed and periodically updated on this page.
Speaker Selection Process
The speaker selection process begins more than one year in advance of Commencement. The chosen speaker joins a long list of distinguished past Commencement speakers who have shared their thoughts, perspectives, and wisdom with Syracuse University graduates.
All names submitted through the website are compiled in an alphabetically unranked list and given to the official speaker selection committee composed of
- senior class marshals (two seniors who represent the entire graduating class at commencement and who chair the committee);
- student marshals from each of the University’s schools and colleges who represent their classmates;
This all-student committee reviews the names collected on the Commencement speaker suggestion list. Following their deliberations, the committee presents a list of proposed speakers to the University Senate, who then presents the list to the Chancellor. The Chancellor reviews the list and makes a final decision on the basis of relevance to the Syracuse University community, availability, and reasonableness of cost.
All nominees for Commencement speaker must be eligible to receive an honorary degree from the University. The University Senate Committee on Honorary Degrees hosts a website detailing its process and criteria for selection. A vote by the University Senate decides which nominations are forwarded to the Chancellor for consideration.
A suggestion for Commencement speaker should be based on the following considerations:
- Outstanding achievement in an academic field, the arts, business, etc.
- Innovative and creative achievements
- Humanitarian deeds and the degree to which the candidate’s activities have touched various lives
- Extent to which candidate’s achievement represents sustained efforts over the course of his/her career
- Extent to which candidate represents an outstanding model for our graduates
- The honor brought to SU should the candidate accept the nomination
Submitted Speaker Suggestions 2021
|Last||First||Identifying Information||Affiliation||Date Submitted|
|Biden||Joe||Former Vice President of the US.||Student||09.19.2019|
|Dr. Brown||Brene||Research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation.||Graduate Student||09.20.2019|
|Chast||Roz||Staff Cartoonist for the NYTimes.||Alum & Mother of 2020 Graduate||09.20.2019|
|Colbert||Stephen||Comedian & political commentator.||Student||10.22.2019|
|Costas||Bob||Emmy Award-winning American sportscaster, MLB Network commentator and host of Studio 42 with Bob Costas. Known for his long tenure with NBC Sports (1980-2018) and as the prime-time host of 11 Olympic Games (1992-2016).||Masters Candidate||12.25.2019|
|DiCaprio||Leonardo||Actor, environmentalist, producer.||Student||10.22.2019|
|Fiss||Owen||Parent of a College of Law Graduate. Yale Law School Sterling Professor, author, and presenter on democracy and free speech.||Parent of 2020 Graduate||11.26.2019|
|Dr. Goodall||Jane||Named one of the most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine (2019). Her important work and peaceful message of embracing one another is more important today than ever.||Alum & Parents of 2020 Graduate||11.25.2019|
|Hanks||Tom||Actor, filmmaker. Funny and inspirational.||Student||11.27.2019|
|Hayden||Carla||Library of Congress.||Student||10.16.2019|
|Kenny||Tom||Voice of SpongeBob SquarePants & Syracuse Native.||Alum & Parent of 2020 Graduate||11.15.2019|
|Musk||Elon||Business mogul, renewable energy investor & influencer, entrepreneur, founder & CEO of SpaceX, co-founder of Tesla.||Student||09.23.2019|
|Obama||Michelle||Former First Lady of the US.||Student||09.25.2019|
|Ocasio-Cortez||Alexandria||Congressional Representative for the 14th District.||Student||10.17.2019|
|Oliver||John||Comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, & TV host.||Student||11.25.2019|
|Owens||Candace||Author, conservative commentator, founder of the Blexit movement- the black exit from the Democratic Party (Fox News). “To encourage the free thinking of African Americans.”||Student||12.16.2019|
|Richardson||Kevin||One of the Exonerated Five.||Student||11.01.2019|
|Rogan||Joe||Famous podcaster, comedian, TV personality.||Student||10.02.2019|
|Rye||Angela||Political commentator for CNN, entrepreneur. She is at the forefront of today’s issues and has an amazing ability to deliver inspiring speeches.||Newhouse Graduate Student||12.01.2019|
|Trump||Donald||Current President of the US.||Student||12.16.2019|
|Union||Gabrielle||American actress, voice artist, activist, and author. NAACP Award recipient, American Film Academy Award recipient, Susan G. Komen Circle of Promise Ambassador.||Graduate Student||01.05.2020|
|Vaynerchuk||Gary||Internet personality, NYTimes best-selling author. He is known for digital marketing & social media.||Student||09.19.2019|
|Warren||Elizabeth||US Senator & 2020 Presidential candidate.||Student||10.05.2019|