Dennis Walcott Confirmed as 2018 Fordham Commencement Speaker


Walcott carries a distinguished history of work within the New York educational system. (COURTESY OF BRUCE GILBERT)


Fordham University’s 173rd Commencement will welcome Dennis Walcott, president and CEO of the Queens Library and former New York City schools chancellor, as its keynote speaker for the class of 2018. The May 19 ceremony will also honor Walcott with the University President’s Medal, awarded by University President Joseph M. McShane, S.J.

Walcott carries a distinguished history of work within the New York educational system, beginning as a kindergarten teacher in his home borough of Queens. Soon after, he served as president of the New York Urban League for 12 years and spent this time expanding the organization’s educational and after-school programs.

He served as chancellor of New York City Public Schools under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, joining in 2002 as a deputy mayor and serving as chancellor from 2011-2013. In 2016, he became president and CEO of the Queens Public Library.

Generally, seniors expressed approval of their speaker. Sunny Kim, Fordham College at Lincoln Center  ’20, commented on the importance of choosing a good speaker to start graduation on the right foot. “It’s the thing that sets the tone for what’s next after you leave college.”

During Walcott’s term as chancellor, he carried out reforms that improved graduation rates, cut dropout rates and focused on diversity, such as a $13 million expansion of after-school programs directed towards ensuring the success of black and Latino students in the city.

Beatriz Martinez-Godas, FCLC ’18, said she appreciated Fordham’s “effort to diversify commencement speakers,” and was pleased to hear Walcott’s history with school outreach. “I hope that Fordham takes a note from Walcott’s action in funding programs for black and Latino students’ education.”

Walcott also holds the title of Fordham alumnus as a graduate of Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service in 1980 where he worked as an instructor in the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership Program. He is also a recipient of an honorary doctorate of humane letters at Fordham’s 2015 commencement.