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Actor, composer, CEO, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers and others will salute Northwestern’s Class of 2024

Distinguished alumni and guest speakers lined up for convocation ceremonies
billy eichner
Actor, comedian, writer, and producer Billy Eichner ’00 will deliver the convocation address for the School of Communication on Saturday, June 8, at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Graduation season is upon us, and the Class of 2024 is getting ready to don their regalia.

In addition to 2024 commencement speaker Kathryn Hahn, each convocation ceremony will welcome a distinguished speaker to offer advice to graduates as they wrap up their time at Northwestern and move on to new endeavors.

Kicking off the University’s end-of-year festivities this year was the NU-Q ceremony on May 6, with a speech by award-winning counselor and author Hala Kazim, whose work promotes social service, women’s well-being and self-empowerment in the Arab world.

Judge Jeffrey Cummings ’87 J.D. delivered the Pritzker School of Law convocation address on May 10 at the Chicago Theatre.

Cummings was sworn in as a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois in October 2023. He had served as a Magistrate Judge since 2019.

On May 13, Nobel Laureate and world-renowned geneticist Dr. Michael Brown spoke to graduates of the Feinberg School of Medicine at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier.

Brown is the director of the Jonsson Center for Molecular Genetics and the Regental Professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Brown helped discover the low-density lipoprotein receptor, which controls cholesterol in blood and in cells, and showed that mutations in this receptor cause a disorder that leads to premature heart attack.

Northwestern’s 2024 Convocation speakers

The Graduate School Ph.D. and M.F.A. hooding ceremony will feature speakers Kelly Mayo, dean and associate provost for graduate education, and Kathleen Hagerty, provost and First Chicago Professorship in Finance, Kellogg School of Management, on Friday, June 7, at Ryan Fieldhouse.

The Bienen School of Music convocation speaker is George Lewis. The composer, musicologist and trombonist will address graduates on Saturday, June 8, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music and Area Chair in Composition at Columbia University and also currently serves as artistic director of the International Contemporary Ensemble.

Nikki Okrah
Nikki Okrah will speak to graduates of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The speaker for the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences convocation on Saturday, June 8, at Welsh-Ryan Arena, is Nikki Okrah ’11, founder and CEO of the Ghana-based company Chaku Foods. Her company aims to transform African agricultural systems with a focus on reducing post-harvest loss, increasing farmer incomes and mitigating against climate change.

Actor, comedian, writer, and producer Billy Eichner ’00 will deliver the convocation address for the School of Communication on Saturday, June 8, at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Eichner is a four-time Emmy Award nominee and the creator and host of “Billy on the Street.” He also cowrote, starred in and produced the film “Bros” in 2022.

The School of Professional Studies convocation ceremony will take place Saturday, June 8, at Ryan Fieldhouse, with Mary Lee Schneider ’12 M.S. delivering the convocation address. Schneider has served in senior leadership roles at companies across several industries, including publishing, graphic communications and more.

On Monday, June 10, at Ryan Fieldhouse, the School of Education and Social Policy will welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Mitchell S. Jackson as its convocation speaker. Jackson, the John O. Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor at Arizona State University, is a lauded author and speaker. A formerly incarcerated person, Jackson is also a social justice advocate who, as part of his outreach, visits prisons and youth facilities in the U.S. and abroad.

The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications convocation on Monday, June 10 at Ryan Fieldhouse will feature speaker Robert Samuels ’06. Samuels is a prize-winning reporter and author. In 2023, he won the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction with his colleague Toluse Olorunnipa for their book “His Name is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice.”

Speakers for the McCormick School of Engineering’s graduation ceremonies on Monday, June 10, at Welsh-Ryan Arena, are Sheila Gujrathi ’92, ’96 M.D. and Grace Wang ’01 Ph.D. Gujrathi, a biotechnology executive and physician scientist, will address the undergraduate class. Wang, president of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will speak at the McCormick Ph.D. hooding and master’s degree Recognition Ceremony.

The Kellogg School of Management address will be delivered by Steve Cahillane ’87. Cahillane is the chairman, president and CEO of food manufacturing company Kellanova. Prior to joining Kellanova, Cahillane held senior leadership roles at several companies, including Nature’s Bounty Co. and The Coca-Cola Company.