Speaker Biographies, May 2015
The 2015 Commencement and Baccalaureate Speakers will be announced in the spring.
Speaker Biographies, May 2014
John Legend, C'99
Grammy-award winning songwriter and musician
Founder, Show Me Campaign
John Legend is a nine-time Grammy Award-winning soul artist celebrated as much for his social activism as for his impressive musical talents. The University of Pennsylvania graduate achieved super-stardom with his 2004 platinum-selling CD Get Lifted. At the time a back-up musician and vocalist on recordings by well-known artists such as Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, and Kanye West, Mr. Legend went on to success in his own right with hit singles such as "Ordinary People," "Heaven," and "Green Light." Known in Penn circles by his birth name, John Stephens, Mr. Legend graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1999 with a degree in English and a concentration in African-American literature and culture. A singer and performer since childhood, he recorded his own albums at Penn, directed the choir of a nearby church, and served as the president and musical director of Counterparts, the University's coed a cappella jazz group. His lead vocals on a Counterparts album earned the group a place on the 1998 Best of Collegiate A Cappella CD. Mr. Legend has used his success to draw attention to causes such as educational disparities and global poverty. He sits on the boards of Teach for America, Stand for Children, and the Harlem Village Academies. He also serves on the Advisory Council for Turnaround and is an "IRC Voice" for the International Rescue Committee. In 2007, he launched the Show Me Campaign, an organization that works to break the cycle of poverty by providing access to quality education internationally. His social contributions have been recognized with the 2010 BET Humanitarian of the Year award, the 2009 CARE Humanitarian Award for Global Change, Africare's 2009 Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, and the 2012 Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year Award.
Mr. Legend received an honorary Doctor of Music.
Baccalaureate Speaker 2014
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, WH'77
Senior Pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell is Senior Pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church. Under the leadership of Caldwell since 1982, Windsor Village Church membership has increased from 25 members to more than 16,000, making it one of the largest Protestant Churches in the country. As a result of Caldwell’s effective social entrepreneurship, both Caldwell and the Windsor Village Church Family have been featured extensively in national and international print and broadcast media, including U.S. News & World Report, the British Broadcasting Corporation, The Wall Street Journal and the CBS Evening News. Caldwell was included in Newsweek’s “Century Club”, the publication’s list of 100 people to watch as America moved into the 21st century.
In partnership with the Windsor Village Church Family, Caldwell has spearheaded several independently operated nonprofits and community development projects that have impacted the social and economic landscape of central Southwest Houston, including The Power Center and Pointe 2.3.4. The Power Center is a 21st century service delivery model of private and public partnership that serves 11,000-plus families a month. Pointe 2.3.4. is a 234-acre, mini-master-planned community that encompasses a commercial park which includes a: CVS Pharmacy, Walgreen’s, Advance Auto Parts, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, ABC Dental and TSO; Corinthian Pointe, a residential subdivision consisting of 462 homes; a YMCA; an HISD elementary school; a senior high charter school; Texas Children’s Pediatrics Center; Corinthian Village independent living facility for seniors; and the 183,000-square-foot Kingdom Builders’ Community Center. Collectively, the nonprofit projects have produced 700 permanent jobs and make a $65.5 million cash flow impact on the community annually. Additionally, Caldwell is the founder of three schools that provide education to students from elementary to senior high school.
Caldwell currently serves on several corporate and nonprofit boards, including NRG Energy where he serves as Chair of the Governance Nominating Committee, Inc., Bridgeway Capital Management; and M.D. Anderson-The University Cancer Foundation. He is also a limited partner with the Houston Texans NFL Franchise.
A native Houstonian, Caldwell was educated in the Houston public schools; received a B.A. Degree in Economics from Carleton College; an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Business; a Master’s Degree in Theology from Southern Methodist University-Perkins School of Theology; and two honorary Doctor of Law degrees, one from Huston-Tillotson College and another from Carleton College.
Caldwell is a husband, father and author of the best seller The Gospel of Good Success and co-author of Entrepreneurial Faith.