Posted: May 4, 2005

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

State legislators, graduates, educators and public figures will give commencement addresses for an estimated 32,000 students who will receive their degrees this spring from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

"We're proud of the graduates and the faculty and staff who supported them," said Chancellor James H. McCormick. "Each year, more than 80 percent of our graduates stay in Minnesota to work or continue their education. This means Minnesota has a bright future."

Among the speakers are:

Hazel R. O'Leary, the first African American, first woman and first energy executive to hold the cabinet position of Energy Secretary. She served in the Clinton administration. O'Leary, who worked for Northern States Power Co. before it became Xcel Energy, will present the commencement address May 13 at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji.

Buzz Lagos, head coach for the Thunder, Minnesota's professional soccer team, who will speak May 16 at St. Paul College.

Michele Leonhart, deputy administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, who will speak May 13 at Century College. Leonhart attended Century in the mid-1970s when it was Lakewood Community College. She also will receive Century's First Outstanding Alum of the Year award.

Gerald Vizenor, a writer and teacher, who will be honored May 13 as Bemidji State University's Distinguished Minnesotan of the Year. He is a member of the White Earth Indian Reservation and was director of American Indian Studies at Bemidji State.

Charles J. McClain, former commissioner of higher education in Missouri and former president of Northwest Missouri State University and Truman State University, who will speak May 6 at Winona State University

Kristen M. Harris, professor of neurology at Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Synapses & Cell Signaling, who will speak May 13 at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Harris received a bachelor's degree in biology from Moorhead in 1976.

At some institutions, 2005 graduates will deliver commencement addresses. They include: Bianca Rhodes, for undergraduate ceremonies at St. Cloud State University May 14; Alison Triebenbach, graduating from the marine and small engine mechanic program May 18 at Alexandria Technical College; James Mullen, graduating from the licensed practical nursing program May 12 at Itasca Community College; and Darla Bobbett, a graduate of the cosmetology program May 5 at the Pipestone campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

State lawmakers who will deliver commencement addresses include: Rep. Joe Atkin, DFL- Inver Grove Heights, May 5 at Dakota County Technical College, Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, May 12 at Minnesota West State Community and Technical College, Jackson campus; Rep. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, May 12 at Ridgewater College, Hutchinson campus; Rep. Anthony "Tony" Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, May 20 at Hibbing Community College; and Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, May 19 at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises 32 state universities and community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota. The system serves about 240,000 students per year in credit-based courses and an additional 130,000 students in non-credit courses.

See the attached list of speakers for details or contact an individual college for more information. Not all Minnesota State Colleges and Universities have commencement speakers.