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Drexel University Names 2024 Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

May 28, 2024

Speakers on stage at Drexel's 2023 Commencement
Speakers on the stage at Drexel University’s 2023 University-wide Commencement ceremony. 

It’s time for Drexel University’s Class of 2024 to don regalia, move the tassels on their caps and get ready to graduate into their next chapter. At the same time, they will also have the chance to receive inspirational advice and words of wisdom from a notable keynote speaker, both at their college or school ceremony, as well as the University-wide Commencement ceremony. All those speakers are leaders in their industries and communities — and some of them are even fellow Dragons.

Here are the speakers and honorary degree recipients for this year’s commencement ceremonies:

University-wide Speaker

Sheryl Lee Ralph

The award-winning actress and producer Sheryl Lee Ralph will deliver a keynote address to Drexel graduates at the University-wide Commencement ceremony on June 14 at Citizens Bank Park. For her portrayal of kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard in ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” she earned a 2022 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, becoming only the second Black woman to win this award. Off camera, Ralph has earned recognition for her work as a health advocate and AIDS activist, creating “Divas Simply Singing,” the country’s longest-running musical AIDS benefit, and serving as an AIDS Ambassador for the Ministry of Health of Jamaica, which in 2022 awarded her the honorary Order of Jamaica.

Honorary Degree Recipients

Sheryl Lee Ralph

In recognition of her contributions to the entertainment industry and her steadfast commitment to reducing health disparities, Ralph will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Joseph R. Syrnick, BS ’69, MS ’71

Joseph Syrnick is a civil engineer whose efforts to redevelop the Tidal Schuylkill River have restored the waterway’s promise in Philadelphia and the region.

Syrnick, who received his BS and MS in civil engineering from Drexel’s College of Engineering, played varsity baseball at Drexel and captained the 1968 team.

For his visionary leadership in engaging diverse civic partners to revive the promise of a waterfront jewel in Philadelphia, Drexel University is proud to present Joseph R. Syrnick with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

College and School Speakers 

School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems 

June 13 at 9 a.m. at the Academy of Music 

Keynote speaker: Wendy Clemens, PhD, vice president of early development oncology at the global biopharma company Bristol Myers Squibb.

Pennoni Honors College: Custom-Designed Majors 

June 13 at 9 a.m. at Drexel University’s Mandell Theater 

Keynote speaker: Chelsea Amantides, BS ’14, MS ’18, PhD ’19, a senior fabrication engineer at the Pennsylvania Fabric Discovery Center at the Center for Functional Fabrics at Drexel University.

She earned a BS in sustainable materials & design as a Custom-Designed Major from the Pennoni Honors College and a MS and PhD in materials science and engineering from the College of Engineering. Amanatides has appeared on student and alumni panels for the Custom-Designed Major; served as a point of contact for prospective students; mentored undergraduates in the Students Tackling Advanced Research (STAR) program; advised graduate students aiding senior engineering design teams; and taught courses as adjunct faculty in the Custom-Design Major program.

College of Computing & Informatics 

June 13 at 1 p.m. at the Mann Center 

Keynote speaker: Det Ansinn, BS ’95, founder and owner of BrickSimple LLC, who is known for working with emerging computing technologies in health care, manufacturing, entertainment and enterprise.

Having earned a BS in electrical engineering at Drexel, Ansinn currently serves as the chair of the Dean’s Executive Advisory Council for the College of Computing & Informatics. He was the college’s commencement speaker in 2021. 

Dana and David Dornsife School of Public Health 

June 13 at 1 p.m. at the Academy of Music

Keynote speaker: Frank A. Franklin, PhD, MPH, JD ’13, interim health commissioner for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

He received a JD from Drexel’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law.

Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship 

June 13 at 1 p.m. at the Mandell Theater 

Keynote speaker: Bryan L. Rishforth, BS ’92, the executive chairman of the sustainable software development platform Graphite GTC, a firm accelerating digital transformation for clients around the globe.

He received his BS from the College of Engineering, where he was an Eta Kappa Nu honoree in electrical and computer engineering. He remained active as a trustee and board member at the Drexel University College of Medicine, member of the A.J. Drexel Society, corporate sponsor, co-op employer and adjunct professor at the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship.

College of Engineering 

June 13 at 5 p.m. at the Mann Center 

Keynote speaker: Jon Rambeau, BS ’96, president of the Integrated Mission Systems business for L3Harris Technologies.

Rambeau received a BS in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering. He currently serves on the College of Engineering Executive Advisory Council and sponsors the Jon Rambeau ’96 Diversity in STEM Advocacy Scholarship.

School of Education

June 13 at 5 p.m. at the Academy of Music 

Keynote speaker: Debora Carrera, EdD, the City of Philadelphia’s new chief education officer.

Goodwin College of Professional Studies

June 13 at 5 p.m. at the Mandell Theater

Keynote speaker: Reggie Showers, world champion racer, mentor, motivational speaker and amputee advocate.

College of Nursing and Health Professions 

June 14 at 8:30 a.m. at the Mann Center 

Keynote speaker: Vice Admiral Raquel C. Bono, MD, who is the first woman surgeon in the military to hold the rank of vice admiral.

College of Arts and Sciences

June 14 at 12:30 p.m. at the Mann Center 

Keynote speaker: Lisa D. Kastner, BS ’00, a technology consultant and the founder of Running Wild, LLC, a content creation, distribution and licensing company that elevates underrepresented literary voices. 

Kastner received her BS in communication from the College of Arts and Sciences. Kastner and Running Wild recently partnered with Drexel’s Creative Writing MFA program to launch the inaugural Running Wild Press Writing Contest, which will give one Drexel student or alumni the opportunity to win a professional book publishing contract.

Bennett S. LeBow College of Business 

June 15 at 9 a.m. at the Mann Center

Keynote speaker: Christine Dorfler, MBA ’09, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the National Football League.

Dorfler received an MBA from the Bennett S. LeBow College of Business in 2009 and serves on the LeBow Dean’s Advisory Board.

Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design 

June 15 at 1 p.m. at the Mann Center 

Keynote speaker: Breonna Danielle Rodriguez-Delgrosso, BS ’04, head of UX: Ads Privacy at Google.

Rodriguez-Delgrosso received a BS in graphic design from the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

Commencement Speakers from May 2024

Drexel University’s College of Medicine and Thomas R. Kline School of Law have already held commencement ceremonies for their Class of 2024.

College of Medicine

May 9 at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts

Keynote speaker: Vicki L. Chandler, PhD, renowned geneticist and chief academic officer and provost at Minerva University.

Thomas R. Kline School of Law

May 17 at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts

Keynote speaker: Preet Bharara, former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), who is regarded as one of the most consequential prosecutors in U.S. history.