2024 Commencement Convocation Oratrix and Honorary Degree Recipients


Dear Howard University Community,

I am excited to announce Howard University's 156th Commencement Convocation will be held at the Capital One Arena on Saturday, May 11 at 10:00 am. This change in venue will allow the Class of 2024 – which is among our largest graduating classes – to celebrate this momentous occasion with even more of their loved ones. Arena doors will open to guests at 7:30 a.m. Please be advised of the arena’s policies, especially as it pertains to bags.

Learn more about Commencement 2024

I am equally thrilled to announce that Thasunda Brown Duckett, president and CEO of TIAA, will be the distinguished speaker for our upcoming 156th Commencement Convocation. Throughout her illustrious career, Mrs. Duckett has demonstrated exemplary leadership and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, 2024 Commencement Convocation Oratrix

As the head of TIAA, she oversees a company that provides secure retirements and investment solutions to millions of individuals and institutions. Mrs. Duckett’s extensive experience includes key executive roles at JP Morgan Chase, where she served for 17 years, including as CEO of the Consumer Bank and Auto Finance. Her leadership extends beyond the corporate world, as she actively contributes to various boards and organizations, including NIKE, Inc., Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, and the University of Houston Board of Visitors, among others.

As an appointee to President Joseph R. Biden’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Mrs. Duckett understands the importance of institutions like Howard University in shaping future leaders and fostering inclusive communities. Mrs. Duckett’s remarkable achievements, commitment to financial inclusion, and dedication to empowering communities align seamlessly with the values and mission of Howard University. Her presence and words at our Commencement Convocation will undoubtedly inspire our graduates as they embark on their own journeys of impact and success.

Additionally, Howard University will bestow degrees upon four honorary graduates alongside the Class of 2024: the former vice president of Costa Rica Dr. Epsy Campbell Barr; astronaut Victor J. Glover, Jr.; attorney and activist Fred D. Gray, Esq.; and hotelier J. Willard Marriott, Jr..

2024 Commencement Convocation Honorary Degree Recipients

Dr. Epsy Campbell Barr

Dr. Epsy Campbell Barr

Dr. Campbell Barr became the first woman of African descent to serve as vice president in the Americas upon her election as Vice President of the Republic of Costa Rica in May 2018, a position she occupied until May 2022. She has also been a two-time Congresswoman and has served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship. Her dedication to empowering Afro-descendant communities extends beyond her country’s borders, as she has helped found organizations such as the Network of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women, the Center of Afro-Costa Rican Women, the Black Parliament of the Americas, and the Women’s Forum for Central American Integration.

Dr. Campbell Barr is currently the president of the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent and the president of the Pan American Health Organization’s High-Level Commission on Mental Health and COVID-19. As an advocate against systemic racism, Dr. Campbell Barr leads the charge as the principal propeller of the Global Coalition Against Systemic Racism and for Reparations. Her work has garnered international recognition, including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from Justicia for her efforts in advancing Afro-descendant rights.

Victor Glover, Jr.

Victor J. Glover, Jr.

Mr. Glover was selected as an astronaut in 2013 while serving as a United States Senate Legislative Fellow. He most recently served as pilot of the Crew-1 dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, which flew to the International Space Station where Mr. Glover also served as Flight Engineer for Expedition 64/65. In 2023, Mr. Glover was assigned as pilot of NASA’s Artemis II mission around the Moon.

The Ponoma, Calif. native earned his undergraduate engineering degree from California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) as a two-sport student athlete, while serving his community. Glover is a Naval Aviator and was a test pilot in the F/A‐18 Hornet, Super Hornet and EA‐18G Growler. He, his wife Dionna, and their four children have been stationed in many locations in the United States and Japan and he has deployed in combat and peacetime.

Fred Gray, Esq.

Fred D. Gray, Esq.

Mr. Gray is the Senior Managing Partner of the law firm of Gray, Langford, Sapp, McGowan, Gray, Gray & Nathanson, P.C., with offices in Montgomery and Tuskegee, AL. Mr. Gray is a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement, a native of Montgomery, and currently resides in Tuskegee with his lovely wife Carol. He has practiced law since 1954 and continues to practice today at the age of 93, specializing in civil rights and other civil litigation.

Mr. Gray has been a cooperating attorney with the NAACP and Legal Defense Fund, Inc. since 1956. He represented many civil rights icons and organizations including the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, Congressman John Lewis, the Freedom Riders and Walkers, Selma to Montgomery Marchers, NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and others.

J. Willard Marriott, Jr.

J. Willard Marriott, Jr.

Mr. Marriott is Chairman Emeritus of Marriott International, Inc, where he served as Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board before retiring in May 2022. Mr. Marriott’s leadership spanned 66 years, as he guided what was a family-run root beer stand and restaurant chain to a global hospitality company that is today comprised of more than 8,800 properties across over 30 leading brands in 139 countries and territories. Mr. Marriott served 40 years as Marriott’s Chief Executive Officer before stepping down on March 31, 2012.

Mr. Marriott serves on the board of trustees of The J. Willard & Alice S. Marriott Foundation. In February 2021, the Foundation, together with Howard University, established the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership in memory of former Marriott International President and CEO, Arne Sorenson. The Foundation provided a $20 million endowment to launch the Center, which is housed in Howard University’s School of Business and features a best-in-class program that expands educational and professional opportunities for Howard students and aims to develop future executives in the hospitality industry. In addition, Marriott International announced the creation of the Arne M. Sorenson Hospitality Fund, which supports some of the programmatic and career development elements of the Center.

Join me in welcoming Mrs. Duckett as our 2024 Commencement Convocation speaker, and Mr. Glover, Mr. Gray, Mr. Marriott, and Dr. Campbell Barr as our honorary degree recipients! Their insights, leadership, and dedication to excellence will undoubtedly resonate with our community as we celebrate the achievements of our graduating class.

Committed to Truth and Service,

Ben Vinson III, Ph.D.