Print Edition

  Email News Updates

Syracuse selects activist, attorney Vernon Jordan Jr. as commencement speaker

By Eric Reinhardt


Vernon Jordan SU Grad Speaker HeadshotSYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse University has named Vernon Jordan, Jr. as its graduation speaker for the ceremony on May 14 in the Carrier Dome.

The university will also award Jordan — a civil-rights activist, business executive, and attorney — an honorary degree during its 163rd commencement exercises.

Jordan in 1992 served as chairman of the presidential transition team for William Jefferson Clinton. He has also held “several” presidential appointments, including the president’s advisory committee for the Points of Light Initiative Foundation and the advisory council on Social Security.

“Vernon Jordan has been a leading American civil rights leader and public policy advisor for more than 50 years,” Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a university news release. “Our graduates will benefit from hearing Mr. Jordan’s insights and perspective on the global society they are about to enter. His vast experience and success in government and business, combined with his commitment to a civil and just society, will inspire our students as they set off to chart their own course in the world.”

Jordan is a senior managing director of Lazard Frères & Co. LLC (NYSE: LAZ), a Hamilton, Bermuda–based financial advisory and asset-management firm. Jordan works in the company’s New York City office.

Prior to joining Lazard, Jordan was senior executive partner with the Washington, D.C. –based law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, where he remains senior counsel.

Jordan practiced general, corporate, legislative and international law during his time with the firm.

“I’m grateful to Syracuse University for this honor. It has been 60 years since I graduated from college, and I’m eager to share with the Class of 2017 and the Syracuse community my thoughts on, and the need for, our shared fight for justice,” Jordan said in the school’s news release.

As a young attorney practicing in Arkansas and Georgia, Jordan was at the “forefront” of the civil-rights movement in the 1960s, Syracuse University said.

He served as Georgia field director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council.

He later was president and CEO of the National Urban League and executive director of the United Negro College Fund.


Contact Reinhardt at


Photo credit: Syracuse University website 

Thank You For Visiting