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‘Just Mercy’ author Bryan Stevenson to deliver spring 2023 commencement address

Ohio State will confer more than 12,000 degrees, present honorary degrees and Distinguished Service Awards

Public interest attorney and best-selling author Bryan Stevenson will deliver the commencement address at The Ohio State University’s spring 2023 ceremony.

Bryan StevensonOhio State expects to issue more than 12,000 degrees and certificates to graduates on May 7 in Ohio Stadium. In addition to Stevenson, honorary degree recipients Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, Columbus entrepreneur and adviser Donna James, and entrepreneur and former Ohio State football player Keith B. Key will also speak to graduates.

Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Under his leadership, the organization has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy,” which was named by Time magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014. The memoir highlights Stevenson’s efforts to overturn the wrongful conviction and death penalty sentence of Walter McMillian and was adapted as a major motion picture in 2019.

“Bryan Stevenson’s steadfast commitment to justice, fairness and equality has saved countless lives, and the example he has set through his life’s work in combating bias in the criminal justice system is one our graduates will greatly benefit from,” said Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson. “His commencement address – along with the speeches of all our honorary degree recipients – will elevate this special day and make it both memorable and meaningful.”

Stevenson also led the creation of two highly acclaimed cultural sites that opened in 2018: the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. These national institutions chronicle the legacy of slavery, lynching and racial segregation, and the connection to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias.

He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government. Stevenson will be honored with a Doctor of Public Service.

Hayden will be honored with a Doctor of Humane Letters. She was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on Sept. 14, 2016. Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama. Hayden was president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004. Her more than 50-year career began in the Chicago Public Library.

James is the managing director of Lardon & Associates LLC, a business and executive advisory services firm she established in 2006 after retiring from Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Nationwide Financial Services. She currently serves as chair of the Board of Victoria’s Secret & Co. and on the board of directors of health care technology firm Boston Scientific. James will be honored with a Doctor of Business Administration.

Key will be honored with a Doctor of Public Service. As CEO of Keith B. Key Enterprises and Omni Management Group, Key has been involved with over $1 billion of real estate development, inclusive of residential, commercial and religious-oriented projects. Key received his degree in economics from Ohio State and is a former Buckeye football player. He contributed $1 million to support the Office of Student Life’s Keith B. Key Center for Student Leadership and Service.

Ohio State will present the Distinguished Service Award to Karen A. Bell and G. Gilbert Cloyd during the ceremony.

Bell, professor emerita, was chair of the Department of Dance for five years before becoming dean of the College of the Arts. In 2008, she was named the university’s first associate vice president for arts outreach. Bell was instrumental in securing funding for the implementation of technology and the integration of African and African-based dance forms throughout the curriculum.

A former chair of the university Board of Trustees, Cloyd served as chief technology officer of Procter & Gamble. He oversaw P&G’s global research and development organization, consisting of 9,000 employees in 28 technical centers around the world. He earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Ohio State in 1969.

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