In conjunction with the celebration of its 175th anniversary — which began January 10 and continues for eighteen months — DePauw University will welcome back Vernon Jordan to deliver the first of what will be a series of speeches by DePauw alumni. The 1957 DePauw graduate will present the inaugural 175th Anniversary Distinguished Alumni Lecture on Sunday evening, February 19, at 8 p.m. in Meharry Hall of historic East College. The program is free and open to all.
A legendary figure in the civil rights movement and the former president of the National Urban League, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. has advised U.S. presidents, and was on campus in November 2011 to introduce his good friend, America’s 42nd president, Bill Clinton, who delivered an Ubben Lecture before 5,000 people in the Lilly Center. An advisory member of the DePauw University Board of Trustees, Jordan is a partner at Lazard Frères & Co. LLC in New York and senior managing director of Lazard Group LLC. He is also of counsel/senior counsel at Akin Gump.
Following remarks touching on his DePauw experience and career in public life, Jordan will join a conversation with John A. Dittmer, DePauw University professor emeritus of history and award-winning scholar of the civil rights movement.
Earlier in the day on February 19, Jordan will also provide a special narration during the DePauw University Band and Orchestra’s “Music of the 21st Century” closing concert at 3 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. The narration is featured in New Morning for the World: “Daybreak of Freedom”, a piece written in tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. by DePauw University guest composer Joseph Schwantner.
Including text from four of Dr. King’s famous speeches, “Daybreak of Freedom”has been performed by major orchestras throughout the United States and has been narrated by such individuals as Coretta Scott King, James Earl Jones and Maya Angelou. Jordan’s narration will be a reprise of a 1997 National Symphony Orchestra recording.
Vernon Jordan has also served as executive director of the United Negro College Fund, Inc.; director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council; attorney-consultant, U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity; assistant to the executive director of the Southern Regional Council; Georgia Field Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and an attorney in private practice in Arkansas and Georgia.
His presidential appointments include: the President’s Advisory Committee for the Points of Light Initiative Foundation; the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa; the Advisory Council on Social Security; the Presidential Clemency Board; the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission; the National Advisory Committee on Selective Service; and the Council of the White House Conference “To Fulfill These Rights.” In 1992, Jordan served as the chairman of the Clinton Presidential Transition Team.
A political science major as an undergraduate at DePauw, Jordan went on to earn his law degree at Howard University. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from more than 60 colleges and universities in America, including DePauw. He is the author of Vernon Can Read! A Memoir and Make It Plain: Standing Up and Speaking Out.Clemency Board; the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission; the National Advisory Committee on Selective Service; and the Council of the White House Conference “To Fulfill These Rights.” In 1992, Jordan served as the chairman of the Clinton Presidential Transition Team.
In December 2009, Jordan was one of eight individuals presented with the Du Bois Medal, the highest honor awarded by the Harvard University Institute of Politics’ W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. He’s also been honored with the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor for achievement, the Trumpet Award, and DePauw’s Old Gold Goblet and McNaughton Medal for Public Service.
In his 1993 commencement address at DePauw, Jordan declared, “DePauw expanded my mind, broadened my horizons, lifted my sights, prepared me to serve and to lead and nurtured my growth and maturity. I made lasting friendships here. If I had my life to live over again, I would return to this place.”
The next 175th Anniversary Distinguished Alumni Lecture features Kyle S. Smitley ’07. Smitley, founder and owner of the organic children’s clothing line Barley & Birch, will speak on March 7 at 8 p.m. in Meharry Hall.
Founded in 1837 as Indiana Asbury, DePauw is a private, selective, coeducational, residential, undergraduate College of Liberal Arts and School of Music with an enrollment of 2,394. Learn more about the 175th anniversary celebration by clicking here.