Speakers and Awardees

Speakers and Awardees


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Jen Psaki

Keynote Speaker 
Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa

Jen Psaki

Jen Psaki is host of MSNBC's "Inside with Jen Psaki" on Sundays and Mondays, and the former White House Press Secretary for President Joe Biden.

Psaki appears across all of MSNBC’s flagship programs, adding a unique perspective from her firsthand experience at the highest levels of government. She is a principal voice in the network’s primetime coverage of major political events and regularly contributes to NBC News, "Meet the Press" and election night programming. She also writes a regular column for the network’s morning newsletter, MSNBC Daily, and contributes to all MSNBC platforms across audio, social and more. 

As press secretary, Psaki was lauded by the Associated Press as a communicator who "dug deep into policy, seeking an understanding that goes far beyond talking points" and was celebrated for bringing "a mixture of warmth, humor, intelligence, and edge" to her role by Vogue.

Prior to her time in the Biden White House, Psaki was a long-time advisor to President Barack Obama and served as a traveling press secretary on his first long-shot campaign and later served as the White House communications director.

Psaki also served as the administration’s public face on the global stage during her tenure as the State Department spokesperson, traveling the world with Secretary of State John Kerry.


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Honorary Degree Recipients


The Honorable Vincent Condol Gray, B.A. ‘64

Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa

Headshot of the Honorable Vincent Condol Gray

A native Washingtonian, Vincent Condol Gray has tirelessly advocated for the residents of the District of Columbia for decades.  He is the only elected official to serve as mayor, city Council chair, and Council member. His dedication to children and their families has been the hallmark of his service, which has been guided by his belief that the District of Columbia works best as “one city.”

In January 2011, Gray was sworn in as the sixth elected mayor of the District of Columbia after running on a platform of restoring fiscal responsibility to city government, creating jobs and boosting economic development, providing a quality public education to all District children and building safe communities. Throughout his four years in office, Mayor Gray moved the District forward toward his vision of a more prosperous, equitable, safe and sustainable city for all.

He was first elected to the D.C. Council, representing Ward 7, in 2004. In that role, he chaired the Special Committee on the Prevention of Youth Violence and created the Effi Barry HIV/AIDS Initiative. In 2006, Gray was elected chairman of the Council. As chairman, he led in efforts to improve the Council’s operations, transparency and oversight capacity and championed for school reform. He was again elected to the Council in 2016. His dedication to eradicating health equity disparities led to the opening of Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center, GW Health, that will deliver high-quality, comprehensive healthcare services to the citizens east of the Anacostia River.

Gray studied clinical psychology at the George Washington University at both the undergraduate and graduate school levels. While at GW, he became the first African American admitted in the GW fraternity system, and in his junior and senior years, became the first person to serve consecutive terms as chancellor of Tau Epsilon Phi.

Gray began his professional career with the Arc of DC. At the Arc, he successfully advocated for innovative policy initiatives on behalf of people with developmental disabilities. In 1991, then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly appointed Gray to the post of director of the Department of Human Services. In 1994, he became the founding executive director of Covenant House Washington, an international, faith-based organization dedicated to serving homeless and at-risk youth.

Jonathan Ledecky

Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa

Headshot of Jonathan Ledecky

Jonathan Ledecky is a highly innovative and successful entrepreneur, investor, mentor and philanthropist.

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School, Ledecky founded an office supply company in Washington called U.S. Office Products. In record time—three years—the company went from a start-up to the Fortune 500 with annual sales of nearly $4 billion. The Company owned Mail Boxes Etc., now called the UPS Store, and distributed Starbucks coffee to offices nationwide. For his accomplishments, Ledecky was named the NASDAQ’s CEO of the Year and the International Franchise Association’s Free Enterprise Award Winner. He also held leadership positions on the National Commission on Entrepreneurship and at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A longtime sports enthusiast,  Ledecky in 1999 became the co-owner of the Washington Capitals, the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics. After relinquishing those, in 2014  Ledecky became co-owner of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders and the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Islanders.

On top of his many business ventures and advisory roles,  Ledecky is a generous philanthropist. In 1997, he started a Foundation dedicated to the education of underprivileged children. The Foundation provided grants to over 100 organizations serving children and young adults in the DMV region while helping to open and support independent schools for inner-city students in Washington, New York, and Boston.

Ledecky has been a trustee of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation, an organization he knows firsthand through his niece, 10-time Olympic medalist Katie Ledecky. His beneficence has also extended to the George Washington University, where he served for five years as a member of the Board of Trustees.


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Yahya Aliyu, B.S. '23, M.S. '24

Student Speaker

Yahya Aliyu

Yahya Aliyu is a master’s candidate in biomedical engineering part of GW five-year BS/MS program. At GW, he co-founded a nonprofit dedicated to promoting student grassroots entrepreneurship, coached men’s club soccer, achieved success at venture competitions and attended the Summer Venture in Management Program at Harvard Business School.

In his past, he oversaw technical operations for a medical practice/consultancy and interned at the White House under the Office of the Chief Statistician of the United States. Concurrent with his work in Deloitte Consulting’s health practice, Aliyu manages financial operations for a nonprofit based in Nigeria and serves as a GW Upstart commissioner, reviewing and recommending grants for the allocation of up to $75,000 in funding for student-led social innovation service projects. Aliyu’s career intent is to improve access to qualitative and humane care, optimize health care delivery and help tackle global health conundrums. Read more about Yahya Aliyu in GW Today.