Commencement Speakers

Wittenberg University's first Commencement Exercises took place in 1851. Since then, a Commencement speaker has regularly addressed the graduates.

What follows is a list of all-time Commencement speakers, based primarily on research in 2021 completed by Suzanne Smailes, Head of Technical Services in the Thomas Library and Associate Professor, and Ryan Maurer, Senior Writer and Web Communications Specialist. Contributions, updates, and corrections can be submitted via email at ucomm@wittenberg.edu.

2021 – Janet Jackson ’75, CEO of the United Way of Central Ohio
2020 – Albert Bryan ’89, Governor of the US Virgin Islands
2019 – P. Kay Carl ’59, Assistant Superintendent for the Clark County School District in Nevada
2018 – King Letsie III of Lesotho
2017 – Sandra Postel ’78, Director of the independent Global Water Policy Project
2016 – Wylecia Wiggs Harris ’82, Chief Executive Officer for the League of Women Voters of the United States
2015 – Kim Byas ’74, American Hospital Association Regional Executive
2014 – Donna de Varona, Olympic Gold Medalist and Sports Journalist
2013 – Matthew Shay ’84, CEO of the National Retail Foundation
2012 – Jennifer Vanica ’76, CEO of the Jacobs Family Foundation
2011 – Doug Ulman, President and CEO of Livestrong
2010 – Zackie Achmat, AIDS Activist
2009 – Richard Stengel, Managing Editor of TIME
2008 – David Hobson, United States Congressman
2007 – Juan Williams, Author and Journalist
2006 – Mark Mathabane, Author and Human Rights Activist
2005 – Lois Raimondo ’81, Photojournalist
2004 – Caroll Spinney, Puppeteer, Author and Artist
2003 – Judith Viorst, Author
2002 – Bill Press, CNN Commentator
2001 – John McLaughlin ‘64, Interim Director of the CIA
2000 – Fred Mitchell ‘69, Author and Sports Journalist
1999 – Helen Thomas, White House Reporter
1998 – Jaime Escalante, Bolivian-American Educator
1997 – Linda Wertheimer, NPR Correspondent
1996 – Marlin Fitzwater, Journalist and White House Press Secretary
1995 – William Kinnison, Wittenberg University President
1994 – Shirley Chisholm, United States Congresswoman
1993 – Marian Wright Edelman, President and Founder of Children’s Defense Fund
1992 – Robert Fulghum, Philosopher and Author
1991 – Mary Alice Williams, Journalist and NBC News Anchor
1990 – Bob Greene, Columnist and Author
1989 – William Raspberry, Journalist
1988 – Erma Bombeck, Author
1987 – Benjamin Hacket, Rear Admiral, United States Navy
1986 – John Naisbitt, Author and Entrepreneur
1985 – Wilson Goode, Mayor of Philadelphia, Pa.
1984 – Hendrick Smith, Author and Correspondent
1983 – Paul Simon, Author and United States Senator
1982 – David Broder, Columnist
1981 – Garry Trudeau, Cartoonist
1980 – Leon Uris, Author
1979
1978 – Carl Rowan, Columnist and Author
1977 – James Schlesinger, Assistant to the President of the US
1976 – William Rehnquist, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the US
1975 – Leon Jaworski, Attorney and Specialist Prosecutor Watergate
1974 – Patricia Roberts Harris, Attorney, Ambassador to Luxembourg, US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare
1973
1972 – Rev. David Vikner, Executive Secretary for Board of World Missions, Lutheran in America
1971
1970 – Kenneth Thompson, Vice President of The Rockefeller Foundation
1969 – Rev. Robert Marshall, President of the Lutheran Church in America
1968 – Eugene Patterson, Editor of Atlanta Constitution
1967 – John Brademas, United States Congressman
1966 – Philip Rhys Adams, Director of the Cincinnati Art Museum
1965 – Jaroslav Pelikan, Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Yale University
1964 – Loren Eiseley, University Professor of Anthropology and the History of Science, Graduate School, University of Pennsylvania
1963 – President Stoughton, Wittenberg University President
1962 – Rev. William John Villaume, President of Waterloo Lutheran University in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
1961 – John Krout, Teacher, Historian, Author, and College Administrator
1960 – Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Professor of History Theology at the University of Chicago
1959 – Bart Brammer, President of American City Bureau, Inc.
1958 – Lester Crowl, President of Blade Printing and Paper Company
1957 – Earl Morris '32, President of the Ohio Bar Association
1956 – Howard Landis Bevis, President of Ohio State University
1955 – Millard Gladfelter, Provost and Vice President at Temple University
1954 – Rev. Stewart Herman, Executive Secretary, Division of Lutheran Cooperation in Latin American, National Lutheran Council
1953 – Rev. Carveth Pearn Mitchell, Pastor of First English Lutheran Church in Mansfield, Ohio
1952 – Harry Guy Gram, Judge of the Clark County Probate and Juvenile Courts
1951 – Kenneth Brown, Executive Director of Danforth Foundation
1950 – Katherine Koller, University of Rochester
1949 – William Zimmerman, President of Thiel College
1948 – Rev. Walter Traub, D.D.
1947 – Rev. Ralph Loew, Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Buffalo, N.Y.
1946 – Rev. Ralph Long, D.D.
1945
1944 – Henry Schricker, Governor of Indiana
1943 – Hon. James Stewart, Audio Engineer
1942 – Rev. N. J. Gould Wickey, Executive Secretary of ELCA
1941 – Rev. Lars Boe, President of St. Olaf College
1940 – Rev. Fred C. Wiegman, President of Midland College
1939 – Robert Taft, United States Senator
1938 – Rev. J. Henry Harms, D.D.
1937 – R. H. Miller, Doctor
1936 – J. P. Schneider, Doctor
1935 – E. O. Weaver, Professor
1934 – Geo. Works, Dean at University of Chicago
1933 – Carl Weygandt, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio
1932 – Martin Henry Fischer, Professor of Physiology at the University of Cincinnati
1931 – Rev. Ernest Fremont Tittle, Pastor of First M. E. Church in Evanston, Ill.
1930 – Rev. Z. Barney Phillips, Chaplain for United States Senate
1929 – Robert E. Vinson, President of Western Reserve University
1928 – Paul C. Martin
1927 – Rev. E. Clyde Xander, President of Thiel College of Music
1926 – Rev. J. M. Reimensnyder, D.D.
1925 – Charles Knight, Lawyer
1924 – L.W. Boe, President of St. Olaf College
1923 – Frank Willis, United States Senator
1922 – Harvey Hoover, President of Carthage College
1921 – J. Phillip Schneider, class of 1896, Wittenberg University Professor of English
1920 – Clement Martzolff, Professor at Ohio University
1919 – Warren Harding, United States Senator
1918 – James Cox, Governor of Ohio
1917 – William Oley Thompson, President of Ohio State University
1916 – Charles Heckert, Wittenberg University President
1915 – B. F. Prince, Doctor
1914 – Rev. E. P. Thomson, D.D.
1913 – Rev. E. W. Simon, D.D.
1912 – Richard Rasmussen
1911
1910
1909 – Charles Heckert, Wittenberg University President
1908
1907 – Charles Heckert, Wittenberg University President
1906 – Rev. S. S. Waltz, D.D.
1905 – Rev. L. S. Keyser, D.D.
1904 – Rev. A. F. Kissell, D.D.
1903 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1902 – Rev. C. F. Steck, D.D.
1901 – J. M. Ruthrauff, Doctor
1900 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1899 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1898 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1897 – E. Luther Spaid
1896 – R. Clark Shellenbarger
1895 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1894 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1893 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1892 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1891 – Samuel Alfred Ort, Wittenberg University President
1890
1889
1888 – President
1887
1886 – Maurice Kirby, Professor
1885
1884 – Rev. S. A. Ort, D.D.
1883
1882 – James McCosh, L.L.D.
1881 – Rev. W. II. Brodbeck
1880 – Rev. M. Rhodes, D.D.
1879 – Rev. G. F. Stelling, D.D.
1878 – Rev. L.M. Kuhns, D.D.
1877 – H. L. Wiles, D.D.
1876 – Rev. Jacob Steck, A.M.
1875
1874 – S. Sprecher, D.D.
1873
1872 – Rev. J. B. Helwig, Wittenberg University President
1871 – Alexander Clark
1870    
1869
1868
1867
1866
1865 – Rev. A. J. Imhoff    
1864
1863
1862 – Rev. S. F. Scovel    
1861
1860 – Rev. M. Dustin     
1859
1858
1857 – Rev. Jas. L. Rodgers     
1856 – Rev. F. R. Anspach    
1855
1854
1853
1852
1851

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