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2017 Commencement Speakers

Skidmore College will bestow honorary doctorate of letters in the arts degrees upon Oprah Winfrey, Ann Tisch and Wes Moore during the College’s 106th Commencement Exercises. Additionally, Mark Youndt, professor of management and business, has been selected as the 2017 faculty Commencement speaker. 

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is a global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress. She has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired people today. For 25 years, Winfrey was host of the award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show. As Chairman and CEO, she is guiding her successful cable network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network; is the founder of O, The Oprah Magazine; and oversees Harpo Films.

Winfrey is an Academy Award-nominated actress for her role in The Color Purple, earned critical acclaim in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and produced and acted in the Academy Award-winning Selma. Winfrey recently appeared in the HBO films The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and will portray Mrs. Which in Disney’s Wrinkle in Time film adaptation, to be released in April 2018.

In 2015, Winfrey joined the Weight Watchers board of directors. On January 3, 2017, she debuted her first cookbook, Food, Health and Happiness: 115 On Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life as No. 1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

Winfrey is also one of the most active philanthropists in the world, having donated more than $20 million to the creation of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She has contributed more than $100 million to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, to provide education to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In 2013, Winfrey was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.


Ann Tisch
Ann Tisch

Ann Rubenstein Tisch, is founder and president of Young Women's Leadership Network (YWLN), an organization that operates The Young Women's Leadership Schools (TYWLS), a network of all-girls’ public schools, and CollegeBound Initiative (CBI), a college access program.

The Young Women’s Leadership Network also supports a network of five high-performing all girls’ public schools in New York City, serving 2,300 students. The success of TYWLS has inspired the opening of more than a dozen single-sex schools nationwide, including affiliates in Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New York, North Carolina and Texas.

A native of Kansas City, Mo., . Rubenstein Tisch began a 19-year career in broadcast journalism at WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kan. She then moved to WCOO-TV in Minneapolis, Minn., and later joined NBC News as a national correspondent. After covering dozens of education stories for the network, as well as studying data on single-sex education, she was inspired to create an all-girls inner-city public school to serve disadvantaged families.

In 1996, with the unanimous approval of the New York City Board of Education, Rubenstein Tisch turned her idea into a reality and opened The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, the first public all-girls school to open in the United States in 30 years.


Wes Moore
Wes Moore

Wes Moore, is a decorated Army combat veteran, youth advocate and CEO of BridgeEdU, a national initiative focusing on addressing the college completion and career placement crisis by reinventing the freshman year of college. He is also the author two instant New York Times bestselling books, The Other Wes Moore and The Work.

Moore graduated Phi Theta Kappa from Valley Forge Military College and in 1998 received his bachelor’s degree with honors from Johns Hopkins University. He completed an MLitt from Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar in 2004. Upon graduation, Moore served as a paratrooper and captain in the Army, serving in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division.

He is also the host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network and executive producer and host of Coming Back with Wes Moore, which follows veterans as they reintegrate back into society. Moore is also the executive producer for the PBS documentary All the Difference, which follows two African-American teens from the south side of Chicago on their journey to achieve their dream of graduating from college.


Mark Youndt
Mark Youndt

Professor Mark Youndt teaches courses in general management and strategy in the Management and Business Department as well as a seminal course called “Human Dilemmas” in Skidmore’s First-Year Experience.

In addition to his work at Skidmore, Professor Youndt has taught courses at the University of Vermont’s College of Medicine and Grossman School of Business, and he has consulted and provided executive education programs to both small and large organizations. His executive education and research activities focus on the areas of business strategy, executive leadership development, knowledge management, sustainability and health care strategy. Professor Youndt has won numerous teaching awards at the undergraduate, master’s and executive levels, and his research has appeared in the Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Research in Personnel and Human Resource Management and Journal of Management Studies. He is also the co-editor of the book Contemporary Issues in Leadership.