Howard University has announced that Ursula Burns will be this year’s graduation commencement speaker. Burns, the chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox, will deliver her speech May 9, 2015 at Howard University’s 147th commencement convocation, beginning at 10 a.m.
Burns is the first African-American woman to lead a major U.S. corporation and one of the most influential black women in the world, ranking 22nd in most powerful women in the world by Forbes last year.
“We are excited to have Ursula Burns as this year’s commencement speaker,” said Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick. “Ms. Burns’ fascinating career and life story have made her a champion of the power of diversity, leadership and women in corporate America. She not only shattered the glass ceiling, she earned her place as leader of one of the most notable companies in the world and inspires women and people of color to aspire for that which may have once seemed unattainable.”
Joining Xerox in 1980 as a summer intern, Burns has yet to leave. She has been aboard for Xerox’s transition from the global leader in photocopying towards a diverse array of business services and technology investments, making her way up the ranks to become CEO in 2009 and chairman in 2010.
Burns, a native of New York’s Lower East Side, holds degrees from both New York University and Columbia.
The announcement of Burns as the 2015 commencement speaker follows last year’s high-profile decision to honor Sean Combs. The Howard dropout-turned-mogul who gave an emotional appeal to the class of 2014. The energy from that speech has carried over, making Howard’s graduating class of 2015 anxious to find out who their speaker is.
Speculation was at a high on Tuesday night as fake commencement flyers appeared on social media, falsely announcing actor Idris Elba, among others, as one of this year’s honorees.
Burns, who will be be honored with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, has made a career of proving herself to be an astute businesswoman. Wasting no time after being named CEO, Burns got the the ball rolling on the company’s expansion, making the largest acquisition in Xerox company history with a $6.4 billion purchase of a services firm.
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