Skip to main content

WVU commencement weekend to feature messages of aspiration, inspiration spanning nearly a century of achievement

young woman in white hijab and gold mortarboard smiles at the camera

A 2018 WVU graduate smiles as commencement exercises conclude.

Download full-size

In a weekend of commencement events May 9-12, West Virginia University’s nearly 4,600 graduates will hear from a host of speakers whose pasts have earned them a Pulitzer Prize, an Emmy, a spot as a cyber-security top cop — and one whose career has begun before she leaves middle school. 

Hilde Lysiak, the 12-year-old publisher of the Orange Street News in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, and the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists, will address the Reed College of Media commencement Friday, May 10, at 9 a.m. at the WVU Coliseum. Three years ago, Lysiak broke the news of a murder in her hometown and subsequently investigated corruption at her local fire department, resulting in the top officers losing their jobs. The aspiring journalist, also the author of the six-book series Hilde Cracks the Case, has been profiled by the New York Times, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Washington Post, NBC Today and others. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind has chronicled the financial world for more than 25 years, covering the last three presidencies, the inner workings of Wall Street and the ways in which financial decisions and government actions drive economies and shape everyday lives. Suskind is the author of six best-selling books, including “Confidence Men,” considered the definitive work on the Obama presidency and the 2008 financial crisis. Suskind will address the School of Medicine Professional Programs May 12 at 9 a.m. in the Coliseum. 

Karen Evans is the assistant secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response in the U. S. Dept. of Energy. Evans, confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2018 was the national director of the U.S. Cyber Challenge, a public-private program designed to help address the skills gap in the cybersecurity field. A WVU alumna, Evans was previously a top IT official at the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush and also served as the Department of Energy’s chief information officer. Evans will address the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Coliseum.

WVU will confer six honorary doctorate degrees at five ceremonies— the College of Creative Arts and the College of Law (May 10), the College of Education and Human Services and the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources (May 11) and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate ceremony (May 12). 

Most Americans will recognize the work of WVU alumnus Jay Chattaway, who won a gold album and one of many Grammy nominations with the hit version of the Theme from Rocky. His gig as a “guest composer” for Star Trek: The Next Generation turned into a 16-year opportunity that included the themes for Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, garnering an Emmy for Star Trek: Voyager, among his nine nominations. Chattaway donated his collection of Star Trek musical scores to WVU and continues to mentor WVU composition students while serving as Distinguished Composer-in-Residence. In 2017, he composed and conducted Jubilee 150 to celebrate WVU’s sesquicentennial

Chattaway, who is slated to receive an honorary doctorate, will speak to College of Creative Arts graduates Friday at 12:30 p.m. in the Creative Arts Center. 

Judge Irene Keeley, an alumna of the WVU College of Law, has sat on the federal bench since 1992, and was Chief Judge of the Northern District from 2001-2008. She is a Fellow of both the American Bar Foundation and the West Virginia Bar Foundation, as well as a past chair of the ABA National Conference of Federal Trial Judges and president of the Federal Judges Association. She has served as chair of the former Board of Advisors of WVU as a member, first vice president of the WVU Alumni Association Board of Directors and as a member of the Visiting Committee of the WVU College of Law. Keeley was Outstanding Alumni of the Year in 2000 and in 2003 was named to the Order of Vandalia

Robert Fitzsimmons has established himself as one of the most accomplished attorneys in West Virginia, having been named one of the top 75 plaintiff’s lawyers in the country and was previously voted the number one Super Lawyer in the state. His case work has been featured or recognized in numerous national media outlets, including ESPN, The New York Times, HBO, Outside the Lines, ABC, CNN, CBS, Fox, GQ, MSNBC, The New Yorker and Frontline, as well as best-selling novels "Concussion" and "League of Denial." 

President Gordon Gee will confer honorary doctorates to Keeley and Fitzsimmons at the College of Law commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Creative Arts Center. 

Ellis Ray Williams, Sr., at 97, enjoyed a long career in West Virginia publics schools in southern West Virginia as a teacher and coach before becoming an adjunct instructor in sociology with Bluefield State College, a mining instructor with the West Virginia Department of Interior and Adult Education Transitions instructor with the West Virginia Community Action Directors Association. Williams has a history of leadership, civic responsibility and community service. Outgoing Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce McConnell will present Williams’ honorary doctorate degree at the College of Education and Human Services commencement exercises at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 11, at the WVU Coliseum. 

Recognized as one of the “Best Lawyers in America,” Sharon Flanery is a member of the Steptoe and Johnson law firm in its Charleston office, where she chairs the energy and natural resources department. With a background as a petroleum engineer, Flanery brings real-world experience to her practice in energy and mineral law. The Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will confer an honorary doctorate to Flanery at its graduation ceremonies Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum. 

William Getty retired as president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation in 2018 after years of focusing on regional development, including the Tri-State Shale Coalition that was created by the governors of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio in 2015 to optimize economic development pertaining to shale gas, including downstream modern manufacturing. Getty serves on the boards of the West Virginia High Technology Foundation, Vision Shared, a state-wide economic development initiative, Imagine West Virginia, an independent policy research institute, and on the steering committee of WV Forward. Getty will be awarded an honorary doctorate by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences during its undergraduate ceremonies at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 12, in the WVU Coliseum. 

Read more about WVU’s May Commencement, including schedules, additional speakers and locations.

Other notable events include:

  • WVU’s sixth annual Lavender Graduation will be held at 3:30 p.m. April 28 in the Mountainlair Ballrooms.
  • The Air Force ROTC Commissioning Ceremony will take place at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 10 in the Mountainlair Ballrooms.



CONTACT: University Relations/Communications

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.