Miami University President Greg Crawford announced Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins will be this year’s spring commencement speaker. The announcement came on Friday, Feb. 19 during a Board of Trustees meeting.
Jefferson-Jenkins is a Western College for Women alumna. After she graduated in 1974, she committed her life to social justice.
“While teaching was my vocation, my calling was always community-based activism,” she said. “I grew up and came of age during the Civil Rights Movement. There was never a time I was not active or not calling for change, not calling for progress.”
She began her career as a public school teacher. In 1998, she became the 15th president of the League of Women Voters and served two terms. She was the first woman of color to be elected to the position, and she also served as the chair of the League of Women Voters Education Fund.
With the League of Women Voters, Jefferson-Jenkins passed an act that closed loopholes in campaign finance regulation and focused on increasing the amount of voters in local elections.
She also helped with the “Get Out the Vote Campaign” and “Wired for Democracy” project – one of the first online resources for nonpartisan election information.
“Throughout her illustrious career, Dr. Jefferson-Jenkins has dedicated herself to affirming and upholding our country’s democracy,” Crawford said. “Through her example, our graduates will be inspired to use their Miami education to serve, lead and build a better future for all.”
Today, Jefferson-Jenkins works at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Education as an assistant adjunct professor while remaining involved in many community-based organizations.
Jefferson-Jenkins received the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award from Miami last year, becoming the third recipient. The award recognizes leaders who work to advance civil rights and social justice.
“What I hope to convey to the new Miami alumni is that they were made for a moment like this,” Jefferson-Jenkins said. “Every generation has a transformational time, and this is it for them. And while we don’t know what the future holds, we know that this class is made for this moment – their passion, their perseverance, their adaptability. We know they will make the world better, and their Miami education and experience has prepared them for that.”
It has yet to be decided whether the spring commencement ceremony, which is scheduled for May 15, will be held in person or virtually.