Virginia Union University Celebrates 2023 Graduates at 124th Commencement Ceremony

April 11, 2023

President Emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, will deliver the Commencement address.

[RICHMOND, VA – April 11, 2023] -- Virginia Union University (VUU) will hold its 124th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 13, at 10 AM on Hovey Field. Individual school ceremonies will begin at 1pm. Anthropologist and educator, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, will deliver the commencement speech.     

“Being a historically black university birthed out of the actions of an African American woman, it is fitting to have such a distinguished history-maker speak to our graduates this year,” said Dr. Hakim J. Lucas, VUU’s President and CEO. “Dr. Cole’s contribution to higher education and anthropological studies along with her storytelling has shown the world the value of the Black experience.”    

Dr. Johnnetta Cole has made history on many fronts. In 1987, she became the first African American woman to serve as President of Spelman College. Additionally, she served as President of Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, making her the only person to serve as president of both Historically Black women’s colleges in the nation. She also made history as the first African American to serve as Chair of the Board of the United Way of America from 2004 to 2006.     

Dr. Cole has authored and edited several works including Anthropology for the Nineties (1988), Conversations: Straight Talk with America’s Sister President (1993) and Dream the Boldest Dreams: And Other Lessons of Life (1997). Her anthropological contributions have led her to study in Africa, the Caribbean and the United States.     

With a decorated list of accolades, Dr. Cole is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and humanitarian awards. In 2010, Ebony Magazine named her among the 100 most influential African Americans. The following year, in Washingtonian Magazine, she was named among Washington DC’s most powerful women. Dr. Cole is one of four recipients who will be awarded honorary degrees from VUU.  

The university will also award honorary degrees to Delegate Lamont Bagby, Senator-elect of Virginia’s 9th District and chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Dr. John W. Kinney, retired Dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at VUU and Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Beaverdam, VA. and Mr. Tracy Maitland, President and Chief Investment Officer of Advent Capital Management, LLC., a multi-billion-dollar asset management company.    

Bishop Adam J. Richardson Jr., Senior Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, will be the 2023 Baccalaureate ceremony speaker. The ceremony will take place Friday, May 12, at 6 PM in the Allix B. James Chapel of Coburn Hall.    

For more information about 2023 Spring Commencement and to see locations for individual school celebrations, visit the university’s website.