You’d think ponying up for a technology leader to be your school’s commencement day speaker would be so much less of a hassle than going with a high profile politician such as President Donald Trump or his rival Hillary Clinton, yet 2017 appears to be a lean year for top techies on the college/university commencement circuit.
This seems especially true for tech leaders in enterprise networking and IT, whereas in the past the heads of companies such as Cisco, IBM and Salesforce.com have commanded the commencement day stage at top schools.
This is not to say that a few big names from the tech world aren’t slated to share their wisdom with new grads this spring.
MIT snagged Apple CEO Tim Cook early to be its speaker on Friday, June 9. “Mr. Cook’s brilliance as a business leader, his genuineness as a human being, and his passion for issues that matter to our community make his voice one that I know will resonate deeply with our graduates,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif gushed.
Cook in 2015 delivered the commencement address at George Washington University.
On a related note, Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson (currently CEO of the Aspen Institute) has been tapped to deliver the commencement address at the College of William and Mary in May.
Another big name, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, will deliver the commencement address at Carnegie Mellon University on Sunday, May 21. Other high profile women in technology, such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani, also will make commencement speeches in May. Sandberg will do the honors at Virginia Tech and Saujani will regale Scripps College’s grads with life lessons.
Sandberg colleague Mark Zuckerberg, in a dramatic twist, will return to Harvard… presumably not to extol the virtues of dropping out of the Ivy League school as he did in 2005. Fellow Harvard dropout and mega technology industry success story Bill Gates gave the commencement address at Harvard back in 2007.
Beating the spring commencement season rush, DeVry University in Phoenix had that state's CIO —and DeVry grad — Morgan Reed as its speaker for a graduation ceremony that took place in January.
Numerous schools still haven't disclosed their speakers. If you know of other techie speakers that have been announced or that get announced after this story initially posts, feel free to ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org.