Skip navigation links

Oct. 29, 2013

MSU announces fall commencement speakers

A respected leader in higher education innovation, Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, will be one of three speakers for Michigan State University’s December commencement ceremonies.

Ceremonies will be held Dec. 13-14 at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center, One Birch Road.

Coleman will speak at the advanced degree ceremony, which will be at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 13. She will receive an honorary doctorate of laws.

Undergraduate ceremony speakers will be James Hackett, CEO of Steelcase Inc., and Sergio Marchionne, chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group, LLC, and CEO of Fiat S.p.A.

At the 10 a.m. Dec. 14 undergraduate ceremony, Hackett will address graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters, Business, Education, Music and Social Science, as well as the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and James Madison College. He will receive an honorary doctorate of humanities.

Also at that ceremony, Julie Mehretu, an internationally renowned artist, will receive an honorary doctorate of fine arts.

Then, at 2 p.m. Dec. 14, Marchionne will speak to graduates from the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Communication Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Natural Science and Nursing, as well as Lyman Briggs College, and will receive an honorary doctorate of engineering.

In addition, at that ceremony, William White, chairman, president and CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, will receive an honorary doctorate of humanities.

“I’ve been privileged to work with Mary Sue Coleman in many ways for several years, and she has been a strong champion for higher education, for the state of Michigan, for her institution and for a diverse student body,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said. “We’re also very pleased to bring together two respected world leaders in manufacturing representing important Michigan products and regions: James Hackett of Steelcase and Sergio Marchionne of Chrysler.”

Biographies of the speakers and honorary degree recipients follow.

Mary Sue Coleman

Coleman became the 13th president of U-M in 2002. As president, she has unveiled several major initiatives that will have an impact on future generations and society at large. These include the economic vitality of the state and nation, global engagement and the value of innovation and creativity.

Under her leadership, the university has launched academic partnerships with universities in China, Ghana, South Africa, Brazil and India.

Coleman is regarded as a national spokesperson on the educational value of diverse perspectives in the classroom. She is the immediate past chairwoman of the Association of American Universities, and has served on the National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Directors.

Coleman is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is the former president of the University of Iowa and was a member of the biochemistry faculty at the University of Kentucky for 19 years.

James Hackett

Hackett has worked in various roles for Steelcase Inc. since 1981. He began his career in sales and marketing, becoming vice president of sales and marketing in 1990.

Hackett then assumed the role of executive vice president of Steelcase Ventures in 1994, and was responsible for the design and development of products for non-contract furniture customers. Shortly thereafter he was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer of Steelcase North America.

Hackett serves on the boards of directors for Ford Motor Co., Fifth Third Bancorp, Northwestern Mutual Life and the National Center for Arts and Technology and on the boards of advisers for the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Life Sciences Institute at U-M.

He is a graduate of U-M.

Sergio Marchionne

In addition to his roles at Chrysler and Fiat S.p.A, Marchionne is chairman of CNH Industrial N.V.

He is board president of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, chairman of SGS SA and serves on the board of Philip Morris International Inc.

Marchionne is also on the board of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and is chairman of the Italian Branch of the Council for the United States and Italy.

A barrister, solicitor and chartered accountant, Marchionne obtained a bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto, a bachelor of laws from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto, and a master of business administration and bachelor of commerce from the University of Windsor.

A citizen of Canada and Italy, Marchionne received an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Windsor and an honorary doctor of business administration from the University of Toledo.

William White

White currently serves on the boards of the European Foundation Centre, the Network of European Foundations for Innovative Cooperation and is chairman of the United States Sugar Corp.

A member of President Ronald Reagan’s taskforce on private sector initiatives in the 1980s, White also served on the Carter Center’s observer delegation for the Palestinian elections, the U.S. Presidential Delegation to observe the Bosnian elections and a Presidential Economic and Business Development Mission to Croatia and Bosnia.

White holds several honorary degrees and, in 2002, received the Council on Foundations’ Distinguished Grantmaker Award. He also is a recipient of the Community Foundation Network of the U.K.’s Beacon Award and the European Foundation Centre’s Compass Prize.

Julie Mehretu

Mehretu was born in Ethiopia and lives and works in New York City and Berlin.

An internationally renowned artist, she has received several awards for her work, including The MacArthur Award, the Berlin Prize: Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship at The American Academy in Berlin and the Barnett and Annalee Newman Award.

Mehretu has shown extensively in international and national exhibitions. Recent solo shows include “Liminal Squared” at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and at White, London; “Mind Breath and Beat Drawings” at Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris; “Julie Mehretu: Grey Area” at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and at The Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; and “Julie Mehretu: City Sitings” at The Detroit Institute of Arts.

She also recently participated in group exhibitions in Russia, Brazil, Germany and Italy.

Mehretu earned her bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College and her master’s of fine arts from The Rhode Island School of Design.

By: Kristen Parker