Two distinguished citizen-leaders, one a respected PBS and National Public Radio journalist and the other a former state official who served at the helm of Virginia’s largest public university, will address the Longwood Class of 2021 at in-person Commencement ceremonies on May 14-15 that will carefully follow state public health guidelines.
Ray Suarez, the undergraduate Commencement ceremony speaker, is a longtime program host and correspondent who has covered many of the world’s biggest news stories over the last 30 years. For 14 years, he was a senior correspondent and anchor for PBS NewsHour, working closely with legendary host Jim Lehrer, who was Longwood’s Convocation speaker in 2016.
PBS NewsHour during Suarez’s tenure won numerous awards for its in-depth reporting and balanced analysis. As chief national correspondent, Suarez covered the September 11 attacks, four presidential elections, the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, and numerous U.S. and international elections. He is currently the co-host of WorldAffairs, a international-news-focused public radio program, and covers Washington for the all-news network Euronews.
Suarez is a graduate of New York University and the University of Chicago, and his early journalism career included stints at ABC and CNN. He was the host of the NPR program Talk of the Nation from 1993-1999. Suarez is the author of three books, including Latino Americans: The 500-Year History That Shaped a Nation and The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration: 1966-1999. He also co-wrote and hosted the 2009 PBS documentary Jerusalem: Center of the World.
Suarez will address graduates at undergraduate Commencement on Saturday, May 15, at 9:30 a.m. on Wheeler Mall.
Anne Holton is a professor of education policy at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and the College of Education and Human Development, and a senior fellow at EdPolicyForward. She previously served as George Mason’s Interim President and as Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. She will address graduate students at an outdoor ceremony on May 14 at 5:30 p.m. on Stubbs Mall.
Both ceremonies have been carefully planned to follow state guidelines issued earlier this month that cover commencement ceremonies.
A longtime advocate for children and families, Holton has worked as a legal aid lawyer and juvenile and domestic relations court judge. As Virginia Secretary of Education, she supported increases in teacher pay and advocated for substantive changes to the state high school curriculum. She was appointed interim president of George Mason University in 2019, and serves on the Virginia Board of Education.
Holton is a Virginia native who was on the front lines of school integration in the 1970s, when her father, Linwood Holton, was governor. She and her siblings enrolled in predominantly Black schools, after a court ruling ordering desegregation of Richmond schools. She went on to earn degrees from Princeton and Harvard. She and her husband, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, are the parents of three adult children, all of whom attended Richmond public schools.
“Both Ray Suarez and Anne Holton are tremendous examples of citizen leaders working at the top of their field for the common good,” said Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV. “What a fitting pair of speakers to address students who have experienced so much upheaval over their tenure at Longwood, and have had to develop a genuine resiliency and camaraderie they will draw on as they transition to the rest of their lives. We are honored to have them both in person in May.”
For both ceremonies, each graduate will be limited to two in-person guests, and social distancing and other precautions will be in place. The events will also be live-streamed for those who cannot attend in person. Graduates may also register for time slots to have photos taken with larger groups of family members at Longwood House that weekend, on Sunday, May 16. President Reveley will join families for photos, which will be made available for free to all attendees.