Relive GW's 2016 Commencement Ceremony


Senator Cory Booker's Commencement Speech

Commencement had us like...

We asked our 2016 graduates what emoji best describes how they felt during Commencement. Here's what they said:

Speakers & Honorary Degree Recipients

U.S. Senator Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.) delivered the George Washington University's Commencement address on May 15, 2016 before an audience of approximately 25,000 graduates, friends and family members on the National Mall. Mr. Booker was also awarded an honorary doctorate of public service from the university.

The university has a history of attracting high-profile Commencement speakers. Former presidents, first ladies, politicians, renowned scientists, activists, actors, authors, athletes, and more, have been past GW Commencement speakers due to their demonstration of unwavering determination, passion, and integrity.

Previous GW commencement speakers include Apple CEO Tim Cook; award-winning actress and alumna Kerry Washington, B.A. ’98; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; First Lady Michelle Obama; former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; and former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Student Speaker

Student Speaker Julia Haigney

GW Law student Julia Haigney named 2016 Commencement Student Speaker.

In a unique “only at GW” tradition, a student speaker has participated at every commencement ceremony since 1992. The student speaker reflects on his or her experiences at GW in a way that resonates with graduates at all levels. In front of 25,000 people on the National Mall, the student speaker serves as a model of the GW experience, delivering strong content in a way that connects with both students and guests.  

2016 Honorary Degree Recipients

Joanna Shields Photo

Joanna Shields

Joanna Shields, M.B.A., '87, undersecretary of state and minister for internet safety and security for Her Majesty's government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. 

Albert H. Small Photo

Albert Harrison Small

Albert Harrison Small is a philanthropist and president of Southern Engineering Corporation. 



Cory Booker Photo

Cory A. Booker

U.S. Senator Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.) has established himself as an innovative and bipartisan problem solver. 

Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who inspire the graduating class, bring honor to the university, and pay tribute to our diverse nation. Honorary degrees are conferred on individuals who demonstrate the value of hard work, dignity, and integrity. Nominees should distinguish themselves in at least two of the three categories:

  1. distinguished professional, scholarly, intellectual, or creative achievement
  2. demonstrated interest in activities that contribute to the public good, including public service and/or philanthropy 
  3. connection to the George Washington University

GW students, faculty, administrators, deans, alumni, and members of the general public may nominate individuals for honorary degrees by completing an honorary degree nomination form.

School Celebration Speakers

Milken Institute School of Public Health Celebration

Debra Eschmeyer, executive director, Let’s Move!; senior policy advisor for nutrition policy, The White House 


School of Business Undergraduate Programs Celebration

Mitchell E. Blaser, B.B.A. ’73, chief operations officer, Ironshore Inc.


School of Business Master’s and Doctoral Programs Celebration

Joanna Shields, M.B.A. ’87, undersecretary of state and minister for internet safety and security for Her Majesty’s government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland


School of Engineering and Applied Science Celebration

Emilio A. Fernandez, vice chairman of the board of directors, Wabtec Corporation


School of Medicine and Health Sciences – M.D. Celebration

Jonathan B. Perlin, president, clinical services; chief medical officer, Hospital Corporation of America


School of Nursing Celebration

Pamela S. Hinds, associate center director, Center for Translational Science; director of nursing research and quality outcomes, Children’s National Health System