Celebrities, Leaders Speaking at UNCF-Member 2023 Commencements

UNCF congratulates the Class of 2023!


UNCF wishes great success to all the talented, determined graduates of its member institutions.

The Class of ’23 faced obstacles no one could have anticipated—a time when all colleges and their students faced unprecedented challenges from COVID-19, a terrible recession and the ongoing legacy of racism—and have come though the other side with a shining future ahead of them. As our graduates receive their degrees, enter the job market and take their first steps toward great careers, we must continue to support the students behind them and the new cohort of hopeful, expectant students entering college this year.

Some institutions will stream their ceremonies as well as hold in-person events. Contact the school if you wish to attend in person, as you may need a ticket, or may need to follow safety and health protocols. You can click on the school names below to see details of commencement ceremony times and locations.

Congratulations to the class of 2023!

Featured 2023 Commencement Speakers at UNCF-Member Institutions

April 22

Lane College
Commencement speakers will be Lane College’s highest ranking Senior Claudine Uwireguye; SGA Presidents Demetrius Johnson (fall) and Damonte Anderson (spring); and Senior Class President Todayza Bonner.

May 1

Fisk University
Fisk welcomes NBA legend, team owner, author, and broadcaster Grant Hill as its 2023 commencement speaker.

May 5

Benedict College
Dr. Dietra Trent will be the keynote speaker for the Benedict College 153rd Commencement Convocation. Dr. Trent is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHI-HBCUs)

May 6

Allen University
This year’s speaker is Milton H. Jones, Jr., Chair, UNCF Board of Directors.

Claflin University
Civil rights activist, author, and political commentator Bakari Sellers will be the keynote speaker at Claflin University’s Spring 2023 Commencement ceremony.

Edward Waters University
Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF, is the commencement speaker for the class of 2023.

Florida Memorial University
Author and journalist April Ryan is this year’s speaker.

Huston-Tillotson University
The class of 2023’s guest speaker is Attorney David Godsey (’94), founder of Godsey Martin, P.C., the largest African American-owned personal injury law firm in Texas.

Jarvis Christian College
Dr. Lamman Rucker, actor and philanthropist, is the commencement speaker for the class of ’23.

Livingstone College
Guest speaker Tamika D. Mallory, social justice activist, was one of the leading organizers of the 2017 Women’s March, for which she and her three other co-chairs were recognized in the TIME 100 that year.

Miles College
Rickey Smiley of the Rickey Smiley Morning Show is this year’s commencement speaker.

Graduates in cap and gown onstage during graduation ceremony

Morris College
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, host of BET News and The Grio, and the Steve Charles Professor of Media, Cities, and Solutions at Temple University; is the commencement speaker.

Philander Smith College
Comedian, actor, writer and producer Deon Cole will be the featured speaker at the 135th Commencement ceremony.

Rust College
Rust visitors and grads will hear from three-time All-American linebacker/defensive-end Stevie “Shakespeare” Baggs, Jr.

St. Augustine’s College
SAU welcomes alumna and WakeMed Health and Hospital’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Chief People Officer Dr. Jeronica Goodwin, ’98, back to her alma mater to serve as the keynote speaker for the university’s 92nd Commencement Ceremony. NOTE: In anticipation of inclement weather, SAU has moved its ceremony off-campus to the Raleigh Convention Center.

Stillman College
Dr. James D. Anderson, a Stillman alumnus (’66) and a member of the board of trustees, will serve as this year’s commencement speaker.

Talladega College
Professor, poet, and award-winning author Nikky Finney (‘79) will deliver the commencement address to Talladega College.

Texas College 
This year’s commencement speaker is the Honorable James E. Clyburn, Assistant Democratic Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Voorhees University
The Honorable Randall Woodfin, mayor of the city of Birmingham, AL, is the commencement speaker for the class of ’23.

Wilberforce University
Councilwoman Stephanie D. Howse, Ward 7, Cleveland City Council, is this year’s speaker.

Wiley College
Mr. Nicholas Perkins, Chairman, President, and CEO of Perkins Management Services Company, will provide the commencement address to over 100 graduates and their guests.

2022 Bennett College grads

May 7

Tougaloo College
Kristen Clarke, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, is the commencement speaker.

May 12

Virginia Union University
The speaker for the May 2023 Commencement will be Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, former president of Spelman and Bennett Colleges.

May 13

Bennett College
Bennett College is pleased to announce that Erika Alexander, actor, activist, and creator, will be the Commencement Ceremony speaker for the graduating Class of 2023. 

Bethune-Cookman University
This year’s commencement speaker is Carla Harris, Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley.

Dillard University
President and CEO of Essence Ventures, Caroline A. Wanga, is this year’s speaker for DU.

The Interdenominational Theological Center
Congresswoman Nikema Williams, serving as the representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district.

LeMoyne-Owen College
Nzinga “Zing” Shaw, Chief Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Officer, The Recording Academy|GRAMMYS

Oakwood University
Brenda J. Lauderback, chairman of the board for Denny’s, Inc., is this year’s commencement speaker for OU.

Shaw University
Advisor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and former Assistant Administrator, US Small Business Administration, Natalie Madeira Cofield will be the 2023 Commencement speaker.

Tuskegee University
Dr. Lisa D. Cook, the first African American woman named as a member of the Federal Reserve Board, will deliver the 2023 Tuskegee University commencement address.

May 20

Clark Atlanta University
The 2023 Commencement speaker is Christopher “Chris” Womack, who serves as the President and CEO of the Southern Company, one of the largest energy providers in the U.S.

May 21

Morehouse College
Morehouse College has announced the Honorable Wes Moore, the first Black governor of Maryland, as its keynote speaker. Honorary doctorates will be presented to Moore; Dr. Roderic Ivan Pettigrew ‘72, CEO of EnHealth; and posthumously to NBA All-Star and civil rights activist William “Bill” Russell.

Spelman College 
Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project and a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, will deliver the keynote address. Tracee Ellis Ross, award-winning actress and producer, and CEO and founder of PATTERN Beauty will receive an honorary degree, Doctor of Fine Arts.

Female student speaking at Florida Memorial University graduation ceremony wearing cap and gown

May 27

Xavier University