NEW ORLEANS – Urban League CEO and former New Orleans mayor Marc H. Morial will be the keynote speaker when Xavier University of Louisiana holds its 84th annual commencement Saturday, May 7, at 10:00 a.m. in the Lakefront Arena.
Morial has led the national civil rights organization since 2003, after an eight-year stint (1994-2002) as mayor of the Crescent City. He is expected to address 500 graduates, along with their families and friends.
Also at this year’s graduation, Xavier will award honorary degrees to businesswoman and philanthropist Camille Hank Cosby, BET Holdings Chair and CEO Debra Lee, and Xavierite Olympic medalist and businessman Herbert Douglas.
The annual Baccalaureate Mass and Honors Convocation will be held the preceding evening, Friday, May 6, at 7:00 p.m. in the Xavier Gymnasium. Bishop Dominic Carmon, S.V.D. will serve as the Main Celebrant for the Mass and Father John Moran, OMI will be the Homilist.
Marc H. Morial In an illustrious professional career that has spanned 25 years, Morial has served successfully as an entrepreneur, lawyer, professor, legislator, mayor and CEO of the National Urban League, earning him a distinction as one of the most accomplished servant-leaders in the nation.
As mayor of New Orleans, Morial was a popular chief executive with a broad multi-racial coalition. He led the city’s 1990’s renaissance and prompted a surge in the New Orleans convention and tourism sector. After two notable terms, he left office with a 70 percent approval rating. A lawyer by training, Morial is the recipient of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award for his legal service to the poor and disadvantaged. He has served as a state legislator and an adjunct faculty member at Xavier. Xavier awarded him an honorary degree in 2002.
As President of the National Urban League since 2003, Morial has led the transformation of the civil rights organization as it approaches its centennial anniversary. Under Morial’s leadership the League has seen record fundraising success and has pumped almost $200 million into urban impact and minority owned businesses through the National Urban League Empowerment Fund. The League has launched numerous other innovative programs including the Urban Youth Empowerment Program to assist young adults in securing sustainable jobs and five Entrepreneurship Centers to foster the growth of small businesses.
The son of former New Orleans Mayor Ernest N. Morial ’51 and Sybil H. Morial ’52, Marc Morial has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential Black Americans by Ebony Magazine.
Camille Hanks Cosby Camille Cosby is married to one of the most recognized faces in the entertainment industry, comedian, author, and television actor Bill Cosby. However, throughout their 45-years of marriage, Camille Cosby has been a subtle-yet-significant presence with immense influence in education and other philanthropic areas.
Cosby serves as her husband’s executive manager, overseeing all financial, philanthropic and staffing matters to oversee their vast enterprise. She plays an active role in her husband's career and causes, the focus of which has often been education, including historic African American colleges and universities in an ongoing one-family philanthropic mission.
Cosby is the President of two production companies – one for film and the other for theatre. She has undertaken some significant creative projects of her own, including a stage play based on a best-selling book and a documentary on the power of mentoring in young people’s lives. She is the founder of the National Visionary Leaders Project (NVLP), an oral history collection comprised of nearly 300 interviews of influential and extraordinary African Americans including the late Shirley Chisholm, eminent historian John Hope Franklin as well as actress Ruby Dee, poet Sonia Sanchez, Drs. Dorothy I. Height and Maya Angelou. The collection is housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.In 2004, Simon and Schuster published A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak based on stories from fifty of the elders in the NVLP archive.
Cosby holds both a M.Ed. and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts.
Since 2005, Debra Lee has served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BET Holdings, Inc. (BET), a media and entertainment division of Viacom, Inc. She started at BET as corporate counsel in 1986 after being recruited by founder Robert Johnson to serve as the company’s first staff lawyer. Prior to her appointment to the company’s top executive office, she was President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of BET Networks for nine years. She joined BET in 1986 as Vice President and General Counsel.
As senior executive at BET, Lee wields significant power as one of the relatively few female executives in cable television. During her tenure at BET, she has helped steer the company as it grew from a small, privately held cable company to a multibillion dollar, multimedia, publicly traded corporation.
Lee serves on the Board of Directors for a public utility company, WGL Holdings, Inc., Eastman Kodak, Marriott International, Inc. and Revlon, Inc. She has served on the Board of Directors for a number of other companies and organizations including the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the Ad Council, and the National Cable Television Association.
Herbert“Herb” Douglas, Jr. Herb Douglas is perhaps best known to Xavierites as a member of the 1942 Xavier track team which made history as the first HBCU to win at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia PA. Douglas’ lifetime accomplishments resonate well beyond this auspicious moment in college sports history.
An accomplished athlete, Douglas won a bronze medal in the long jump at the 1948 Olympics in London, in addition to three collegiate track titles at Xavier. After military service in World War II, he is credited with helping to integrate the University of Pittsburgh's varsity football team in 1945 and was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.
A successful businessman, Douglas served as a sales executive for the Pabst Brewing Company before rising to become the third African-American vice president for Schieffelin and Somersot, the makers of Hennessy Cognac. He was selected by Ebony magazine as one of the 100 Most Successful Black Men in America. A member of the NAACP and Urban League, Douglas founded the International Amateur Athletic Association, Inc., and has served on the board of directors of the Jesse Owens Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh.