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Dominican University Announces Commencement Speakers

Monday, April 22, 2019

Dominican University will hold its 2019 commencement exercises on Sunday, May 5 at University of Illinois-Chicago's Dorin Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago. The undergraduate ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. and the graduate ceremony will be held at 3 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times photographer Michelle Agins, (pictured) an alumna of Dominican University, will serve as the commencement speaker for the undergraduate ceremony, during which she will receive an honorary degree. Agins was hired by the New York Times in 1989, the second African American female photographer to be appointed by the renowned publication. She and colleagues won the Pulitzer for National Reporting in 2001 for "How Race is Lived in America." She also received Pulitzer Prize nominations in 1990 for her coverage of the Bensonhurst (New York) protests and, in 1995, for her work on the New York Times series, "Another America: Life on 129th Street."

Beginning her career as an intern for the Chicago Daily News, Agins also worked as a photojournalist for Chicago's South Shore Sentinel before taking a job as a photographer and audiovisual specialist for the City of Chicago's Department of Human Services. She was hired in 1983 by Mayor Harold Washington's press office and served as the official mayoral photographer until 1987.

Agins received honorary citations in 1990 by the New York Association of Black Journalists and the New York Associated Press. Earlier this year, she received the Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award, the National Press Photographers Association's highest honor, for her commitment to the craft of visual journalism and for advancing the profession.

During the undergraduate ceremony, Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of Chicago Zoological Society, will receive an honorary degree. A career conservationist with extensive experience in restoration ecology, Strahl oversees the world-famous Brookfield Zoo, which has developed an international reputation for its cutting-edge role in animal care and the conservation of the natural world.  

Prior to joining the Zoological Society, Strahl served as founding president and CEO of Audubon of Florida, overseeing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the largest ecological restoration initiative in history. He also has served as a Research Fellow and founding director of Latin American Programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He was responsible for developing lasting partnerships between the United States and Latin America, which have resulted in the preservation of more than 30 million acres of wildlife habitat.

Kevin Ryan(pictured above) president and CEO of Covenant House, one of the country's largest charities serving children and families facing homelessness and human trafficking, will serve as commencement speaker for the graduate ceremony. Ryan also will receive an honorary degree.  

Ryan oversaw the opening of a Covenant House in Chicago two years ago. Last month, the organization opened the largest refuge in Mexico for homeless children.

Covenant House's international Sleep Out movement includes thousands of participants across the United States and Canada who sleep outside to raise awareness and funds for the organization. Last year's event attracted the Chicago cast of "Hamilton," as well as hundreds of students and business leaders, all of whom slept outside Covenant House in Chicago. 

Prior to his leadership of Covenant House, Ryan served as the first public Child Advocate in New Jersey, where his investigations into juvenile detention centers garnered media attention and resulted in comprehensive statewide reform. In 2015, President Barack Obama appointed Ryan to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and, in 2018, President Trump invited him to witness the signing in the Oval Office of human trafficking legislation that Ryan had championed for many years. 

About Dominican University

Founded in 1901, Dominican University is a comprehensive, coeducational Catholic institution offering bachelor's and master's degrees through the Rosary College of Arts and Sciences, the Brennan School of Business, the Borra College of Health Sciences, and the College of Applied Social Sciences. The university also offers a doctoral degree in library and information science. In the 2019 issue of America's Best Colleges, U.S. News & World Report ranked Dominican University #11 of all Midwest regional master's level universities. The magazine also ranked Dominican as the best value in the State of Illinois.