2023 Spring Commencement Speakers Announced
Across four ceremonies to be held May 5 – 6 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, 5,673 graduates — 2,640 bachelor’s, 2,833 master’s, and 200 doctoral — will turn their tassels and complete their degree programs at Tech. As they prepare for their next step, graduates will hear from distinguished speakers, including hedge fund manager and philanthropist Michael Messner, University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue, record-setting kicker and Super Bowl champion Harrison Butker, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Michael Messner – Ph.D. Ceremony
With a civil engineering degree from Georgia Tech, where he now serves as a professor of the practice in the Scheller College of Business, Messner began his career in the railroad industry before pivoting to finance and co-founding Seminole Management in 1995. In 21 of 23 years as Seminole’s CIO, the firm’s assets totaled over $3 billion.
In 2001, Messner and his wife, Jenny, created the Speedwell Foundation to assist with funding for education and study abroad programs in urban areas. The Messners donated a sizeable gift to the G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise scholarship fund and continue to support the program that provides a debt-free education to qualifying students from low-income Georgia families.
With an affinity for urban park development, Messner funded Tech research showing the positive effects of increasing greenspaces in U.S. cities, and he serves on the board of the City Parks Alliance, the Drexel Education Fund, and the Piedmont Park Conservancy.
For his ongoing commitment and service to Georgia Tech, Messner will be receiving an honorary degree at Commencement.
Sonny Perdue – Master’s Ceremony
As chancellor of the University System of Georgia, Perdue oversees the state’s 26 public colleges and universities with a $9.8 billion budget, 48,000 faculty and staff members, and more than 340,000 students. Throughout a decades-long career in public service, Perdue has prioritized public education, beginning in the Georgia Senate. There, he was instrumental in crafting legislation to create the HOPE Scholarship program and chaired the Senate Higher Education Committee. During his term as Georgia’s 81st governor from 2003 to 2011, the state’s graduation rate and SAT scores improved.
Before becoming USG chancellor, Perdue served as U.S. secretary of agriculture from 2017 to 2021, launching the Farmers to Families Food Box program to help provide food for vulnerable Americans during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Georgia native, Perdue graduated from Warner Robins High School, earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Georgia, and served in the U.S. Air Force.
Harrison Butker – Bachelor’s Morning Ceremony
The all-time leading scorer in Georgia Tech football history and a Tech graduate, Butker was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the 2017 NFL Draft before being signed off of the practice squad by the Kansas City Chiefs. Since then, Butker has become one of the best kickers in the NFL, ranking 4th all-time in field goal percentage, and earned his second championship ring with a game-winning field goal in Super Bowl 57.
Off the field, the Harrison Butker Family Foundation was created to support the community and combat human trafficking. Butker is the current honorary chairman for the Dream Factory of Greater Kansas City, an organization dedicated to making dreams come true for critically and chronically ill children. The Decatur, Georgia, native is on the board of Regina Caeli Academy, a home school hybrid academy with locations across the country.
Butker’s entrepreneurial endeavors include co-founding MDKeller, a multifaceted holding company, and Madison Manufacturing.
Antony Blinken – Bachelor’s Afternoon Ceremony
Blinken has advised three presidential administrations and currently serves as the secretary of state under President Joe Biden, returning to the department where his public service career began as the special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs in 1993.
During the Clinton administration, Blinken served as a National Security Council (NSC) staff member and spent four years as Clinton’s chief foreign policy speechwriter while leading the NSC’s strategic planning team. Following a stint as the Democratic staff director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Blinken served numerous roles during the Obama administration, including principal deputy national security advisor. Before being tabbed to lead the State Department in 2020, Blinken founded WestExec Advisors — a strategic consulting firm focused on geopolitics and national security — in 2017.
After graduating from Harvard University in 1984 and Columbia Law School in 1988, Blinken practiced law in New York and Paris, where he had previously lived and attended grade school and high school.