This year’s commencement ceremonies at DePaul will include speeches from a brain surgeon from the Mayo Clinic, a leader of the Chicago Blackhawks, the founder of The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and a trailblazing judge.
DePaul University’s 120th commencement will celebrate an estimated 6,600 graduates during seven separate ceremonies May 18 and June 15-16. Among the commencement speakers are: lawyer and racial justice advocate Bryan Stevenson; neurosurgeon Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa; retired appellate Judge Ann Claire Williams; and Chicago Blackhawks president and CEO John F. McDonough.
Bryan Stevenson works to end mass incarceration
A public interest lawyer, Bryan Stevenson has dedicated his career to helping the poor and the incarcerated. He founded the Equal Justice Initiative, which has freed more than 125 wrongly convicted prisoners from death row. His legal achievements include winning a historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional for all children under the age of 18.
Last year, his organization opened the nation’s first memorial dedicated to lynching victims, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and a companion museum, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. Both shine a spotlight on America’s history of racial injustice and inequality. Stevenson is the author of the bestseller “Just Mercy,” a true story about the potential for mercy in every individual and a call to fix a broken justice system. Stevenson will speak at the combined ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the School for New Learning and will receive an honorary degree.
Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa brings brain cancer surgery, research to those in need
Neurosurgeon and neuroscientist Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa researches the intricacies of brain cancer. He brings surgical expertise and resources to patients through the Mission:BRAIN foundation, which he co-founded. Coming from humble beginnings as a migrant farm worker in Mexico, Quiñones-Hinojosa now performs more than 200 brain surgeries a year. He is chair of the Department of Neurologic Surgery at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus and he holds the prestigious title of Mayo Professor.
Quiñones-Hinojosa conducts research funded by the National Institutes of Health to find a cure for brain cancer. The tools he uses range from nanotechnology to stem cells. He teaches oncology, neuroscience, and neurosurgery; directs a neurosurgery clinic; and leads a laboratory studying brain tumors. Quiñones-Hinojosa’s journey is chronicled in his book, “Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon.” He will speak at the combined ceremony for the College of Science and Health and the School of Music and will receive an honorary degree.
Ann Claire Williams is a devoted public servant shattering glass ceilings
A retired appellate judge, Ann Claire Williams holds an important place in history as the first woman of color to hold several significant leadership positions in the federal judiciary. In 1985, after serving as the Midwest chief of a new nationwide narcotics initiative, she was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In 1999, President Bill Clinton's nomination made her the first and only judge of color to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and the third woman of color to serve on any federal circuit court.
Williams has led a number of local and national initiatives to expand access to legal education and resources for women and minorities, including Just the Beginning - A Pipeline Organization, which offers programs aimed at inspiring young students and increasing diversity in the legal profession and judiciary. Internationally, Williams has partnered with judiciaries, attorneys, NGOs, and the U.S. departments of Justice and State to lead training programs for judges and lawyers in Africa and Indonesia on topics including domestic and gender violence, human and wildlife trafficking, and trial and appellate advocacy. Retired from the bench, Williams continues her work at law firm Jones Day, leading its efforts in advancing the rule of law in Africa. She will speak at the ceremony for the College of Law.
John McDonough is a force in Chicago sports marketing
Having played a vital role in the franchise success of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago Blackhawks during the last four decades, Chicago native John McDonough is one of the city’s most influential sports executives. The Blackhawks recruited him in 2007 as president and then added CEO to his job description in 2011. Through a series of swift changes, successful marketing campaigns and smart broadcast deals, he helped the franchise revitalize its fan base and recruit a winning team. Since McDonough joined the Blackhawks, the team has won Stanley Cup titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015, becoming the first organization in the NHL's salary cap era to capture three championships. He also created the team's "One Goal" slogan, a mantra that has become the cornerstone of the Blackhawks marketing, branding and organizational culture.
Prior to joining the Blackhawks, McDonough spent 24 years with the Chicago Cubs. He played a major role in increasing the Cubs' fan base, attracting sponsorships and boosting attendance and revenue. McDonough conceptualized the celebrity "guest conductor" during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field and created the annual Cubs Convention, which is now viewed as a prototype for team and league fan festivals. McDonough will speak at the combined ceremony for the College of Communication and the College of Education.