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

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.

Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative, Law Commencement speaker

Under Bryan Stevenson's leadership as the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson recently won a historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and is the author of award-winning and New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy.

In April 2018, EJI opened a new museum, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, built on the site of a former slave warehouse in downtown Montgomery. This is a companion to a national memorial to victims of lynching, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened at the same time.



Kerry Egan '95, Undergraduate Baccalaureate speaker

Kerry Egan '95 is the New York Times bestselling author of On Living (Riverhead, 2016) and Fumbling (Doubleday, 2004). Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Woman's Day,, Parents, and Readers' Digest, among other publications. A hospice chaplain by training and vocation, her work with the dying and living has been featured on NPR, PBS, and CNN. She was the 2019 Hannah Judy Gretz Fellow at Ragdale Foundation and an AspenWords Writer in Residence at the Aspen Institute. She was educated at Harvard Divinity School and Washington and Lee. She lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband and children.





Elizabeth Mugo '19, Undergraduate Commencement student speaker

Elizabeth Mugo calls both Ruiru, Kenya, and Irmo, South Carolina, home. As a sociology and anthropology major, with a minor in poverty and human capability studies, she recently completed her term as the president of the Executive Committee of the Student Body, having served previously as Vice President of the EC and as a student representative on the Commission for Institutional History and Community. She has led three Volunteer Venture trips, and has served as a senior intern in the Bonner Program, partnering with community organizations such as College Access and the Rockbridge Area Community Anti-Racism Effort (CARE).

Elizabeth graduates with deep gratitude to her family and friends who have helped her. For the immediate future, Elizabeth will be doing anthropology research at the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania as a Fulbright Scholar and hopes to begin a career in public policy, focused specifically on criminal justice and immigration reform.