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    Morehouse College Announces Wes Moore, the First Black Governor of Maryland, as 2023 Commencement Speaker

    April 19, 2023

    Honorary doctorates will be presented to Moore; Dr. Roderic Ivan Pettigrew ‘72, CEO of EnHealth; and posthumously to NBA All-Star and civil rights activist William “Bill” Russell

    For its 139th commencement, Morehouse College has announced Wes Moore, the first Black governor of Maryland, as its keynote speaker. Taking place on Sunday, May 21, 2023 at 9 a.m. on the College’s Century Campus, Moore will also be presented with an honorary doctorate alongside Dr. Roderic Ivan Pettigrew ’72, CEO of Engineering Health (EnHealth) and executive dean for Engineering Medicine (EnMed) at Texas A&M and Houston Methodist Hospital, as well as a posthumous honorary doctorate will be presented for the late NBA All-Star and activist William “Bill” Russell, accepted by his wife Jeannine Russell.

    From left to right: Dr. Roderic Ivan Pettigrew;
    the late William "Bill" Russell; and Governor Wes Moore, who will serve as commencement speaker this year.

    Moore was elected to be the 63rd governor of Maryland in the fall 2022, which made him the first Black governor in the state’s 246-year history and the third Black governor in the history of the United States. Prior to the governorship, Moore served as a combat veteran of the U.S. Army, became a bestselling author of two books, a Rhodes Scholar, and was CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty organizations. Moore has devoted his life’s work to a basic principle: “no matter your start in life, you deserve an equal opportunity to succeed – a job you can raise a family on, a future you can look forward to.”

    Renowned research scientist Dr. Roderic Ivan Pettigrew ‘72 will be honored with the honorary Doctor of Sciences due to his dedicated advocacy for diversity within the science and medical industries. After graduating from Morehouse, Pettigrew pioneered and subsequently became a globally recognized expert in cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and held several leadership positions in academia and the government, including serving as the founding director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health. 

    Former Boston Celtics and 12-time NBA All-Star William “Bill” Russell will posthumously be awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for his life lived as one of the earliest outspoken athletes against prejudice in society during the 1950s and 1960s. Russell was lauded for revolutionizing shot-blocking in basketball, but leveraged his commercial fame and accomplishments as a beacon for Black players who lacked protection from discrimination and retaliation, while also serving as a key participant in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

    The Presidential Award of Distinction will be presented to retiring Morehouse trustee John L. Thornton, executive chairman of Barrick Gold Corporation, non-executive chairman of PineBridge Investments, and former co-president of Goldman Sachs. Thornton is widely regarded as a pioneer in global finance and investment banking. In addition to his business career, he has also made significant contributions to the field of economics as a scholar and researcher.

    For a complete list of commencement events and supporting information, visit

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