Information about the 2016 Baccalaureate and Commencement 


2016 Commencement Speaker: Alexis M. Herman

HermanBorn in Mobile, Alabama, Alexis M. Herman began her career working for Catholic Charities helping young out-of-school men and women find work in the Pascagoula, Mississippi, shipyard. At the age of 29, she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as director of the Women's Bureau of the Labor Department, making her the youngest person ever to hold that position. On May 1, 1997, Herman was sworn in as America's 23rd Secretary of Labor, becoming the first African American to lead the U.S. Department of Labor. During her tenure as a member of the president's Cabinet she also served as a valued member of the National Economic Council.

As Secretary of Labor, she focused on a prepared workforce, a secure workforce and quality workplaces. With that mandate in mind, she consolidated the department's wide array of skills-development programs into a simpler, more efficient system. She led the effort to institute a global child labor standard, moved people from welfare to work with dignity, and launched the most aggressive unemployed youth initiative since the 1970s. Under her tenure, unemployment in the country reached a 30-year low, and the nation witnessed the safest workplace record in the history of the Labor Department. Herman's actions as secretary were a reflection of her understanding of the needs of America's workers and the challenges they faced as this nation approached the 21st century.

Currently, Herman serves as chair and chief executive officer of New Ventures LLC. She has continued to lend her expertise and talent to a vast array of corporate enterprises and nonprofit organizations. A recipient of more than 20 honorary doctoral degrees from major colleges and universities around the country, Herman is a former trustee of the National Labor College George Meany Center. Presently, she chairs the Toyota Diversity Advisory Board. Herman is the lead director of Cummins Inc. and a member of the boards of directors of Entergy, MGM Resorts International and The Coca-Cola.




2016 Baccalaureate Speaker: James T. Laney

LaneyJames T. Laney is president emeritus of Emory University, former ambassador to South Korea and an ordained United Methodist minister. His association with Korea began in 1947, when he served there in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. He later taught at Yonsei University in Seoul and at Vanderbilt University before becoming dean of Emory's Candler School of Theology in 1969. In 1977, Laney was named president of Emory University, serving in that role for 16 years. Appointed as ambassador to South Korea from 1993 to 1997, he was instrumental in helping defuse the nuclear crisis with North Korea in 1994.

Laney has received medals for distinguished service from the United States and Korea, the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale, the Emory Medal, and the General James Van Fleet award from the Korea Society. He holds undergraduate, divinity, doctoral and honorary degrees from Yale University. He and his wife, Berta, have five children and 16 grandchildren, including Emaline Laney '16, president of this year's graduating class.