Commencement Speakers also reachable through go.wlu.edu/commencement-speakers

President of the University | Law Commencement guest speaker | Baccalaureate guest speaker | Undergraduate Commencement student

William C. Dudley, President

William C. (Will) Dudley became the 27th president of Washington and Lee University on January 1, 2017. He was formerly provost and professor of philosophy at Williams College.

A Virginia native, born in Charlottesville and raised in Arlington, Dudley received his bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Williams in 1989 with majors in mathematics and philosophy, and an M.A. and a Ph.D., both in philosophy, from Northwestern University. He joined the Williams faculty in 1998. His area of expertise is German idealism, from Kant to Hegel. He is the author of two books, Understanding German Idealism (2007) and Hegel, Nietszsche, and Philosophy: Thinking Freedom (2002). He is the editor of volumes on Kant and Hegel and has published numerous scholarly articles. At Williams he also taught on the philosophy and economics of higher education and the spiritual significance of sports.

As an undergraduate at Williams, Dudley was captain of the water polo team, a member of the swimming and diving team, and the recipient of a Herschel Smith Fellowship to study at Cambridge University from 1989 to 1990. He worked from 1990 to 1993 for AES Corp. before pursing graduate studies at Northwestern.

Dudley received fellowships from the Williams College Oakley Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Humboldt Foundation. He served as the Gaudino Scholar at Williams from 2010 to 2011, a presidential appointment to lead the Robert L. Gaudino Memorial Fund and to encourage curricular innovation and experiential learning at the college.

As Williams's provost since 2011, Dudley oversaw operations that directly support the college's academic mission, allocating budgets and positions and undertaking strategic initiatives in admission, financial aid, the libraries, information technology, the science center, institutional research, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Zikha Center for Environmental Initiatives. He was intimately involved in aligning fundraising efforts with the college's needs, including establishing priorities for Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams, which was launched in October 2015 with a goal of $650 million.

Dudley serves as a trustee and vice-chair of the board at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the public liberal arts college for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. He received a gubernatorial appointment to that board in 2010 and became the vice chair in 2015. He also served as president of the Williamstown Community Chest from 2007 to 2009 and served on the board of that non-profit for six years.

He is the father of two children, Cole and Ella.


William B. Hill Jr., Law Commencement speaker

William B. Hill Jr., or “Hill” as he is called, concentrates his practice on commercial and complex litigation, with a particular emphasis on business torts, business divorces, internal investigations, contract disputes, alternative dispute resolution,  and early case resolution. Hill provides clients with effective and efficient representation informed by his experience as a former Georgia Deputy Attorney General, Georgia State Court Judge and Superior Court Judge.

Hill has successfully represented automotive, pharmaceutical, hospitality industry, and private companies and individuals in numerous state and federal courts throughout the country, and is known as much for his engaging and good-natured courtroom demeanor as he is for his dynamic and hard-hitting trial skills. Hill also regularly serves as the neutral in complex mediations and arbitrations, as well as advocate.

Hill thoughtfully uses his previous experiences as a jurist to the benefit of clients. His goal is always to exceed client expectations, driving matters to effective conclusion as efficiently as possible.
 


Rebecca Linder Blachly, Undergraduate Baccalaureate speaker

Rebecca Linder Blachly is the Director of the Office of Government Relations for the Episcopal Church, where she oversees the church’s advocacy on national and international policy issues. With a focus on the environment, refugees and immigration, and international development and conflict, she leads a team that engages Congress and the Administration, develops strategies for grassroots organizing and mobilization, and builds coalitions.

Most recently, she was the Senior Policy Advisor for Africa in the Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, where she worked with religious communities throughout Africa, including in Mauritania, Chad, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. From 2007-2008, Ms. Blachly was Acting Chief of the Strategic Communication Division at U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany. Prior to that, she served as the Special Assistant to the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she focused on humanitarian assistance, disaster response, and peacekeeping. From 2003-2006, Ms. Blachly was a research associate in the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She has conducted fieldwork and research in Sudan and South Sudan, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Oman, and she has published on civil-military relations and collaboration in complex environments. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in philosophy from Williams College, and her Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University.


J. Wilson Miller '17, Undergraduate Commencement student speaker

Wilson Miller is from Dallas Texas, and is completing majors in both economics and studio art. Wilson has served on the Executive Committee of the Student Body as class representative, secretary, vice president, and president. He was the Texas State Chair for Mock Convention 2016 and is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. Wilson was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa in 2016. In his free time, Wilson enjoys drawing, photography, and spending time with friends. He plans to pursue a graduate degree following a year of work and travel.