Fall 2023 Commencement Speakers Announced
Across four ceremonies to be held Dec. 15 – 16 inside McCamish Pavilion, 6,322 graduates — 1,865 bachelor’s, 4,212 master’s, and 245 doctoral — will celebrate the completion of their degree programs at Georgia Tech. Offering words of wisdom to the graduates during the ceremonies will be 1934 Distinguished Professor Award recipient Ellen Zegura, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems Chuck Robbins, and President and CEO of Southern Company Chris Womack.
Ellen Zegura, Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award Recipient
The 2023 recipient of the Institute’s highest faculty honor, Zegura is a Regents’ Professor and the Stephen Fleming Chair in Telecommunications in the College of Computing. Her research is focused on computer networking and computing for development.
Since joining the College in 1993, Zegura has shaped its curriculum in various leadership roles while maintaining her passion for connecting with students. She previously served as the associate dean before being named the first-ever chair of the School of Computer Science. During this time, the Computing for Good collective was launched as a project-based teaching and research activity examining the use of computing to solve pressing societal problems.
Zegura was integral in developing the Institute’s 2014 Quality Enhancement Plan. In collaboration with other faculty members concerned about community activism and social justice issues, her concept paper would lead to the development of Georgia Tech’s Serve-Learn-Sustain program. She also helped create the Civic Data Science internship program and the Bits of Good Vertically Integrated Project.
She is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery and an elected member of the Computing Research Association Board.
Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator
Across nearly five decades of public service, Nelson served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate before becoming the 14th NASA administrator in 2021, setting the agency’s programmatic and budget priorities and internal policies, and reporting to the president.
Nelson flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1986. While orbiting Earth 98 times over six days, he conducted 12 medical experiments, including the first American stress test in space on a treadmill.
During his time in Congress, Nelson was an advocate for combating climate change and a proponent for career training and education in STEM fields to spur job creation. Before arriving in Washington, D.C., he served three terms in the Florida legislature, where he helped to enact a first-of-its-kind law to protect consumers from computer fraud as well as the first local government growth management law.
The Yale graduate also served on active duty for two years in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of captain.
Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems Inc.
Master’s/Bachelor’s: Dec. 16, 9 a.m.
As chairman and CEO of Cisco, Robbins is focused on helping companies, cities, and countries connect, secure, and automate their organizations for a digital-first world. Under his leadership, the company has instituted innovative business model transitions to create a more environmentally sustainable, cost- and time-efficient, equitable, and diverse workforce. In 2022, Fortune named Cisco the top workplace in the U.S.
With more than 20 years of experience at Cisco, Robbins is credited with driving and executing many of the company’s largest investment areas and strategy shifts, including emphasizing the social and environmental responsibilities of the technology industry.
A Georgia native, Robbins serves on the board of directors for BlackRock, the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, the Business Roundtable, and the board of trustees for the Ford Foundation. He is the chairman emeritus of the U.S.-Japan Business Council and previously served on the Georgia Tech Advisory Board.
Robbins holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a computer science concentration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For fostering the ongoing relationship between Georgia Tech and Cisco, Robbins will receive an honorary degree.
Chris Womack, President and CEO of Southern Company
Master’s/Bachelor’s: Dec. 16, 2 p.m.
Starting with Southern Company in 1988, Womack became the president and CEO of the energy provider, which serves more than 9 million customers nationwide, in March 2023. In recognition of his leadership and community involvement, Womack has received numerous honors, including being named among Black Enterprise’s 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America.
Womack previously served as the president and CEO of Georgia Power — the provider’s largest subsidiary — and executive vice president and president of external affairs for Southern Company, where he led overall external positioning and branding efforts.
The Greenville, Alabama, native co-chairs the Edison Electric Institute Customer Solutions Policy Committee and is a member of the board of directors of Invesco Ltd. and the Georgia Ports Authority. In the past, Womack chaired the board of the East Lake Foundation, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau board, and the Atlanta Sports Council. He continues to serve on the national board of First Tee — a nonprofit empowering teens through golf.
Before joining Southern Company, Womack worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide for former Rep. Leon E. Panetta and as staff director for the Subcommittee on Personnel and Police for the Committee on House Administration.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree from American University, and he completed the Stanford Executive Program. For his efforts as a civic and business leader, Womack will be awarded an honorary degree.