Commencement 2017

Civil rights activist and political adviser Vernon Jordan to deliver Syracuse University’s 2017 commencement address

Daily Orange File Photo

Jordan was announced Wednesday as SU's 2017 commencement speaker.

Vernon Jordan, a civil rights activist and past adviser to former President Bill Clinton, will deliver Syracuse University’s 2017 commencement address, the university announced Wednesday.

Jordan was involved with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, serving as the Georgia field director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and later as the director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council.

Jordan also served as chairman of former President Clinton’s transition team after Clinton was elected president in 1992.

“I’m grateful to Syracuse University for this honor,” Jordan said in a news release Wednesday. “It has been 60 years since I graduated from college, and I’m eager to share with the Class of 2017 and the Syracuse community my thoughts on, and the need for, our shared fight for justice.”

Courtesy of Vernon Jordan

Jordan is currently a senior managing director of New York City-based Lazard Frères & Co. LLC, an investment banking firm. He has held that position since 2000.

Jordan garnered attention in the late 1990s for serving on the board of directors for 10 corporations, including American Express, Dow Jones & Co., J.C. Penney Co. and Xerox Corp.

Additionally, Jordan worked on the campaign of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in the months leading up to the election, as he led debate preparation and negotiation for the candidate.

“Vernon Jordan has been a leading American civil rights leader and public policy advisor for more than 50 years,” SU Chancellor Kent Syverud said in the news release. “Our graduates will benefit from hearing Mr. Jordan’s insights and perspective on the global society they are about to enter. His vast experience and success in government and business, combined with his commitment to a civil and just society, will inspire our students as they set off to chart their own course in the world.”

Jordan, who has also worked as an attorney, graduated from the Howard University of Law in 1960 after receiving his undergraduate degree from DePauw University in 1957. After graduating from Howard, he worked for civil rights attorney Donald Hollowell. During that time, the firm sued the University of Georgia for racial discrimination and, as a result, a federal court ordered the admission of two African-American students to the university.

Jordan left private law practice in the early 1960s to work for the NAACP.

This year’s commencement ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 14 inside the Carrier Dome. Jordan will be awarded an honorary degree — a Doctor of Laws — during commencement festivities.


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