Commencement Speaker Smackdown!

From John Legend to Al Gore, Terry Gross to Ed Herr, we rate local colleges’ commencement picks.

The first round of announcements regarding May college commencement speakers has wound down, and if you think college admissions are competitive, you should see the commencement-speaker arms race. Is our school’s smarter than yours? More famous? Better looking? We took the trouble to arrange the first 20 announcees according to overall desirability as we see it from here.

2nd Tier:

  • Risa Vetri Ferman at Penn State Abington. Because we’re fans of Law & Order—and her brother Marc.
  • George Stephanopoulos at Franklin & Marshall. The Good Morning America host (for now) isn’t exactly boyish anymore (do you know what time he has to get up?!), but we bet he’s got some tales to tell.
  • Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers. We want the lowdown on this George Bush painting thing.
  • Lisa Nutter at Cabrini. Like having your mom up there. Not that that’s bad, Mom!

3rd Tier:

  • Corey Ciocchetti at Delaware Valley College. He’s a motivational speaker whose website is
  • Carol Eggert at West Chester. She’s something with the National Guard?
  • Marty Baron at Lehigh. He’s the editor of the Washington Post. Maybe he knows some famous journalists.
  • Ellen Schecter at Arcadia. Author of kids’ books. Also a memoir about having a fatal disease.
  • Susan Kiely at Gwynedd Mercy. On the minus side, she’s an ordained minister. On the minus-minus side, she’s married to the retired CEO of MillerCoors.

Bottom of the barrel:

  • Randal Pinkett at Cheyney. He won Season Four of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. Worse, he’s entering politics.
  • James J. Maguire at St. Joe’s. He’s a big, big donor. We guess they have to let him speak.
  • Dominic Pileggi at Widener. Majority leader of the PA Senate. Snooze.
  • Tracy Davidson at Chestnut Hill. The NBC journalist is getting a graduate degree there. In “Holistic Spirituality.”
  • Terry Gross at Bryn Mawr. We’ve heard enough Terry Gross.
  • Al Gore at Princeton. We’ve heard enough of him, too.

Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.

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  • Anna

    Would love to know what tier you’re placing Chris Christie at Rowan?

    • Sandy Hingston

      I guess Christie gets a tier all his own!

  • Sam

    How about Joe Biden at UD? Maybe he’ll do it with a cigar in hand, the same way he attends UD football games.

    • Sandy Hingston

      BIden goes top tier, just for the loose-cannon factor.

  • Rutgers Reigns

    Stop being lazy Sandy Hingston! Randal is not entering politics! If you’re attempting to position yourself as a snarky authority you should at least get your facts straight. Randal was a rock star well before the Apprentice. You ignore the fact that Randal has been a businessman, scholar and educator for the last 21 years.

  • Millie

    Yet another tabloid styled, poorly researched, article. It should be embarrassing to any self-respecting journalist.

    Sandy you facts on Dr. Randall Pinkett are all wrong and the comment that you made relative to Dr. Randall Pinkett being the bottom of the barrel as a commencement speaker is totally ridiculous. This is not funny and is an insult to Dr. Pinkett and to his family. Please take time to do research in the future.

    Here are the facts:
    Dr. Randal Pinkett has established himself as an entrepreneur, speaker, author, and scholar and community servant. He is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, a multimillion dollar management, technology and policy consulting firm based in Newark, NJ.
    Dr. Pinkett holds five academic degrees including the following: Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, that he completed with a 3.9 GPA while serving as President of MEET, the Rutgers Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Captain of the Rutgers University Varsity Men’s Track and Field team competing as a high jumper and long jumper; Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Computer Science from Oxford University, England as a Rhodes Scholar; Master of Science (S.M.) in Electrical Engineering from the MIT School of Engineering and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from the MIT Sloan School of Management as a participant in the MIT Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) Program; and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from the MIT Media Laboratory. Most notably, Dr. Pinkett made history as the first African-American ever to receive a Rhodes scholarship at Rutgers University

  • Angela

    These categorizations are shallow at best. It’s a reflection on how careless society has become. Our young people (or shall I even say lazy, old, and immature people) only know what’s fed to them in the media. We miss the important and real truths while being distracted by mainstream. Almost every person on this list has a ‘story’ far deeper and greater than the juvenile summaries provided in this article.

    • Sandy Hingston

      Jeez, lighten up!

  • Go Cats

    and surprising no one, no mention of villanova

    • Sandy Hingston

      Aw, did we leave Pat Toomey out?

  • Andaiye Reeves MLS

    The name Dr. Randal Pinkett and the phrase ‘bottom of the barrel’ don’t even belong in the same vicinity of a page, much less this bullet list you’ve thrown together here. As a Rutgers Alumni, I’m appalled- Dr. Pinkett was indeed a ‘rock star’ well before The Apprentice. As a journalist, I’m appalled at your lack of preparation.

    • Sandy Hingston

      You’re a journalist too?!?

  • R. Parker

    Ms. Hingston. Firstly, being a commencement speaker is an awesome responsibility and a great honor. Your speaking to the next generation, inspiring them and their parents to get ready for the world. Secondly, I know and have worked with both John (@BCG) and Randall (@NSBE). Both of these African American men are highly educated (MIT & UPenn), have performed well in business on their own right, and make us (all Americans) proud. We will not get “okie doked” into slamming either one of them. Thirdly, I believe that your piece was even beneath you. Really, this is the best article that you could have thought to write. And if so, this is all you wrote. Wow. The piece is similar to a book report written by a high schooler on the bus to school. Very sad. Fourthly, based on postings on this comment section, you don’t even realize how sorry you should be based on the retorts, you just give a sorry response (“lighten up”). Lastly, where are you ranking on the commencement speaker list.

  • M

    If you’re going to use this joke of an article for some snarky one liners about house hold name commencement speakers why must you also take your cheap shots at the lesser known individuals thereby slandering them to most folks who know nothing about them? Your writing reminds me of a middle school cyber bully. And let me add to the chorus of defenders of some of the incredibly accomplished “bottom of the barrel” speakers, did you bother to read anything about the amazing work the Maguire Foundation does for our community?

  • AnyOldHead

    It was tongue-in-cheek. I’m glad the author has a sense of humor & put it out there; I enjoyed it. Whenever the always-so-serious, perpetually offended folks preach about it, I know it’s time to say buh-bye!

    • TST

      It’s always funny when it’s not you, right?

  • TST

    This is so disrespectful. I challenge you to use your platform in a more positive and productive way instead of disparaging people like Dr. Pinkett who has done more for children, his community and in business than most. He should be applauded for that. How about applauding him for the billion-dollar contract wins from the federal government? Why not focus on things like that? Perhaps you’ll take these comments under advisement and avoid this type of “journalism” in the future.