Speakers & Honorary Degrees

Student and alumni speakers, honorary degree, and special award recipients make each academic college's ceremony a unique and personalized experience for graduates and guests. 

commencement speaker 2

Each Commencement ceremony features the conferral of degrees, greetings by university, alumni and state officials, remarks by a graduate and undergraduate speaker, and the awarding of an Honorary Degree or Distinguished Faculty Service Award.

Every May, one Commencement ceremony will feature a prominent Commencement speaker from outside of the university community. The ceremony with this notable speaker will be designated as the University Commencement. Although one ceremony will carry this designation, all ceremonies are equally significant. While the University Commencement ceremony can only accommodate graduates and guests of the academic college hosting the ceremony, the University Commencement as with all other ceremonies will be live-steamed from the Commencement homepage on the day of the ceremony.

Towson University Honorary Degree Recipients are selected through a process overseen by the Office of the President, while student speakers (graduate and undergraduate) are selected through nomination processes overseen by each academic college.

Distinguished Alumni Speakers

Distinguished Alumnus and Young Distinguished Alumnus award recipients have been recognized for outstanding achievement in their chosen profession or field.  These are the most prestigious awards the Towson University Alumni Association bestows. Distinguished Alumni speakers provide inspirational remarks to our newest graduates and welcome them to the alumni community.

College of education & College of fine arts & communication

  • Sherman L. Ragland, II '84 will speak at the Commencement ceremony scheduled for December 20 at 10 a.m. 

Mr. Ragland is a leader in the fields of real estate, real estate acquisition/development, and creative asset disposition. Mr. Ragland holds an M.B.A. in Finance and Real Estate from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Urban Planning from the School of Architecture of the University of Virginia.

college of business & economics and college of health professions

  • Emily J. Taylor, AuD., FAAA '12 will speak at the Commencement ceremony scheduled for December 20 at 3 p.m.

Dr. Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree in hearing and speech sciences from the University of Maryland and a doctorate of audiology degree from Towson University. Her doctoral thesis, “Assessment of the Efficacy of a Hearing Screening Program for College Students,” was accepted for publication in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology in 2013. Dr. Taylor opened Taylor Listening Center, a full-service audiology private practice, shortly after graduation. There she specializes in diagnostic audiology and works with all age groups to develop patient rapport and an atmosphere where people feel at ease. She finds audiology fulfilling because she can improve the quality of life on a daily basis for people with hearing loss. Each month Taylor Listening Center donates proceeds from hearing testing to a different charity. The center also accepts donated hearing aids, which Dr. Taylor cleans and donates to those in need.

fisher college of science & mathematics and College of liberal arts

  • Crystal J. Neely, Ph.D.,’06 will speak at the Commencement ceremony scheduled for December 21 at 10 a.m.

Dr. Neely graduated from TU in 2006 with a BS degree in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Bioinformatics.  Subsequently, she began a graduate program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studied the immune response following severe burn injury.  After earning a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology in 2013, Dr. Neely accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and investigated the immune response in the tumor microenvironment and during infection.  While at St. Jude, she also served as the Chair of Career Development and organized a variety of services that addressed the career and professional needs of St. Jude’s postdoc population. Most recently, Dr. Neely accepted an Assistant Director position within the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Career Services Office where she able to pursue her passion for helping the next generation of researchers successfully transition into their chosen careers.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. ”


Winter 2017 Student Speakers

In recognition of the student experience and excellence demonstrated by the entire class, it is the university's tradition to invite individual graduates to give remarks during each ceremony.  Student speakers join a long list of outstanding graduates who have shared their personal journey, perspective and vision for the future at Commencement.

Selection of speakers is made by each academic college and is based upon the extent to which their achievement represents sustained efforts over the course of their academic careers and is an exceptional model for Towson University graduates. 


Erin Dudley (Grasonville, MD) will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with dual certification in Early Childhood Education. While earning her degree, Erin has consistently made the Dean’s List, worked as a tutor, and volunteered as a Sunday School teacher for fourth and fifth grade students at Kent Island United Methodist Church. She will continue with these experiences to contribute to her growth and passion for education following graduation. In addition to these roles, she hopes to educate young students in the Maryland public school system, return to school for a Master’s degree in administration, and eventually work towards writing children’s books. Her most memorable experiences gained from TU were the moments she spent with her students that provided her with immeasurable love and inspiration that has carried her through her educational career thus far.


Kahleeka Nikkiya Perry (Charlotte, NC) will be graduating with a Master of Science degree in Communication Management. During her time at TU, Kahleeka maintained a 3.9 grade point average while working full-time as a marketing manager for the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Kahleeka is actively involved in the future development of leaders within the field of communication studies, by serving as a guest lecturer for undergraduate Introduction to Public Relations and Strategic Communication classes at TU as well as participating as a guest panelist at the 2016 PRSA Maryland Conference on the campus of Loyola University. Kahleeka was also a recipient of the 2017 MacGruder/Passano Scholarship Award. With the completion of her master’s degree, Kahleeka has fulfilled a personal goal of becoming the first person ever in her family to acquire an advanced degree. 


Natalie Reeder (Boonsboro, MD) will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management. Her most meaningful experience at TU has been establishing relationships with faculty and staff as well as utilizing all of the resources the College of Business and Economics (CBE) provided her. During her time at TU, Natalie made the Dean’s List every semester, was a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), and worked as a CBE Student Consultant. She also mentored female Baltimore City high school students, inspiring them to pursue a college education through the college’s MentHER program. She is scheduled to take the SHRM-CP exam to become a certified professional in the human resources field. After graduation, she plans to return to her hometown of Boonsboro and pursue a career in human resource management.


Caroline Johnson (Millersville, MD) will be graduating with a Master of Science degree in Nursing, with a concentration in Nursing Education.  During her time at Towson University, Caroline had the opportunity to create and lead a community based program to study the effects of dance on quality of life for patients with dementia.  She has represented Towson by presenting her research at various seminars.  Caroline was hired to work as adjunct faculty for Towson’s undergraduate course, Fundamentals of Nursing, after successfully completing her graduate teaching practicum.  Caroline consistently made the Dean’s list and will be graduating with honors.  She is a registered nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center and is currently working full time on the Medical Intermediate Care Unit.  She is a certified progressive care nurse, a certification awarded by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).  After graduation, Caroline hopes to continue to work for TU as an adjunct faculty member and to pursue further education.


Muhammad Waleed (Baltimore, MD) will be graduating with a Master of Science degree in Applied Information Technology and previously received a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Towson University in 2016. During his time as a graduate student, Muhammad continuously made the Dean’s List, was a Honeywell Scholar, and a member of the Towson TOPS community. Muhammad’s most meaningful TU experience has been connecting with his professors and being a member of the Towson TOPS Community, which has inspired him to understand and pursue his career passions. Muhammad currently works as a Computer Information Systems analyst for IZI Medical Products and plans to continue in this position after graduation.


Mackenzie Rice (Barrie, Ontario) is a graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and Economics. She is originally from Barrie, Ontario in Canada, and spent four years living in Canberra, Australia before attending Towson University. During her time at Towson University she was a Division 1 student-athlete, competing on the women’s golf team. As a student athlete, she was selected for the Colonial Athletic Association All-Academic Team and received the Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholars honors for three consecutive years. Mackenzie is an associate editor for the Towson University Journal of International Affairs, for which she has written a number of substantive blog posts, and currently works as an intern at the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University. She anticipates graduate work pursuing her interest in immigration policies around the world.