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Smithsonian museum director and physicist to address UT graduates May 7

Leaders with a passion for diversity and science who have uplifted Americans through the arts, public service and higher education will address graduates at The University of Toledo’s spring commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 7 in Savage Arena.

During the 9:30 a.m. ceremony, former U.S. Congressman and physicist Dr. Rush D. Holt, who leads the world’s largest multi-disciplinary scientific and engineering society, will speak to graduates from the colleges of Adult and Lifelong Learning, Health Sciences, Social Justice and Human Service, and the Judith Herb College of Education.

Dr. Johnnetta Cole, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the first African-American female president of Spelman College, will speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony for the colleges of Business and Innovation, Communication and the Arts, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Languages, Literature and Social Sciences.

There are 2,843 graduates for degrees, including 234 doctoral candidates, 677 master’s candidates and 1,840 bachelor’s candidates.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on

Dr. Rush D. Holt Photo Credit: Chet Susslin, National Journal

Holt, who will receive an honorary degree of doctor of public service during the morning ceremony, is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

He served eight terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District.  During his time on Capitol Hill from 1999 to 2015, Holt advocated for increased federal research funding, science education and innovation. Holt made national headlines in 2011 when he defeated IBM’s supercomputer “Watson” in a non-televised round of Jeopardy!

Holt previously served as assistant director of Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory, one of the largest alternative energy research facilities in the country.

Dr. Johnnetta Cole

Cole, who will receive an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters during the afternoon ceremony, made history nearly 30 years ago as the first African-American female president of Spelman College in Atlanta. She later served as president of Bennett College for Women, making Cole the only person who has served as president of both historically black colleges for women in the United States.

Cole also was the first woman elected to the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises. She was the first African American to serve as chair of the board of United Way of America.

Other commencement ceremonies taking place include:

  • College of Engineering: graduate commencement 5 p.m. Thursday, May 5; undergraduate commencement 3 p.m. Saturday, May 7. Both ceremonies will be held in Nitschke Auditorium.
  • College of Nursing: 1 p.m. Friday, May 6 in Savage Arena.
  • College of Law: 1 p.m. Sunday, May 8 in the Student Union Auditorium
  • College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: 10 a.m. Sunday, May 8 in Savage Arena.
  • College of Medicine and Life Sciences: 2 p.m. Friday, May 27 in the Stranahan Theater.

For more information, visit

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