TALLADEGA, AL – Talladega College will confer three honorary degrees during its 146th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 1, 2021, at 9 a.m. Honorary degree recipients for the Class of 2021 include Executive Business Management (EBM) President/CEO Essye B. Miller, who previously served as principal deputy, Department of Defense chief information officer (CIO); acclaimed poet and social justice advocate Nikki Finney; and UNCF (United Negro College Fund) Senior Vice President Lodriguez Murray. Commencement will be live-streamed at www.talladega.edu/live-events/ on Talladega’s website.

Essye B. Miller

Talladega College alumna Essye B. Miller (1985) is a seasoned executive with 35+ years of federal and Department of Defense (DoD) experience. She provides consulting and strategic advisory services focused on national defense issues related on information management, information technology, and cybersecurity. Ms. Miller is also a CIO Strategic Advisor Government Executive (SAGE) for Partnership for Public Service. During her tenure as principal deputy chief information officer, she served as primary advisor to the Secretary of Defense for information management, information technology, and information assurance. She oversaw implementation of the department’s Digital Modernization Strategy; set the strategic direction for DoD IT reform efforts in support of the National Defense Strategy; drove the Fourth Estate Network Optimization efforts; and successfully managed the Department’s $49 billion IT budget. As the DoD face to the Federal CIO Council, she influenced IT priorities and policies across government agencies. Ms. Miller was recognized by their Secretary of Defense for her Distinguished Civilian Service. She is also a 2018 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award for exceptional service an a staunch advocate for developing the next generation of technology and cybersecurity leaders.

Nikky Finney

Talladega College alumna Nikky Finney (1979) holds two endowed chairs at the University of South Carolina, the University Distinguished Professor Chair and the John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters. She is the recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets (2020), the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry the University of the South (2020), the Elizabeth O’Neil Verner Award for the Arts in South Carolina (2016), and the Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry (2004), and the PEN American Open Book Award (1996). She has authored and edited numerous publications, including Head Off & Split, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry. Her newest book, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, is a finalist for the 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her work is on display in the inaugural exhibition of the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C. She is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a place for poets of color of Appalachia. She was recently elected chancellor of the American Academy of Poets.

Lodriguez V. Murray

Lodriguez V. Murray is a tenured executive federal lobbyist based in the District of Columbia, he specializes in representing diverse constituencies to policy and political leaders. He is highly skilled at procuring federal funding for the organizations he represents, due in part to his working knowledge of federal laws, departments agencies, and programs. In addition to his ability to procure federal funds, Mr. Murray has proven capability in coordinating successful fundraising events and receptions. Key to his effectiveness as a lobbyist in his ability to develop strategic plans, analyze policies, and provide regular recommendations for programs enhancements. His solid and trusting relationships enable him to effectively represents clients of members of Congress, congressional staff and agencies. He is the youngest ever permanent member of the UNCF Leadership Team.

About Talladega College
Talladega College, Alabama’s first private historically black college, is consistently ranked among the best southeastern colleges and top HBCUs in the nation. It was founded in 1867 by two former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, and is the home of the renowned Hale Woodruff Amistad Murals.

BOWIE, MD – Voting rights champion, political leader and bestselling author Stacey Abrams will deliver the commencement address to the Spring 2021 graduating class at Bowie State University during a virtual commencement to be held on May 21, 2021 at 10 a.m. EDT.

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams is an outspoken advocate in the fight to expand voting access and is the New York Times-bestselling author of “Our Time Is Now” and “Lead from the Outside.” She is widely credited with increasing voter turnout in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election, as well as in the state’s 2020-21 U.S. Senate election and special election. She was nominated for a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts. She made history in 2019 as the first African-American woman to deliver a response to the State of the Union address.

She was the nation’s first African-American female major-party gubernatorial nominee when she ran as the Democratic candidate in the 2018 Georgia governor’s race, winning more votes, at the time, than any Democrat in state history. Before her gubernatorial run, she served as Democratic Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives for seven years.

Abrams has launched several organizations to address inequities in government. She started Fair Fight Action to ensure every American has a voice in our election system, Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 census and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South.

Abrams hold a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School, a Master of Public Affairs degree from University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College.

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About Bowie State University
Bowie State University (BSU) is an important higher education access portal for qualified persons from diverse academic and socioeconomic backgrounds, seeking a high-quality and affordable public comprehensive university. The university places special emphasis on the science, technology, cybersecurity, teacher education, business, and nursing disciplines within the context of a liberal arts education. For more information about BSU, visit www.bowiestate.edu.