Georgia Tech Celebrates 241st Commencement

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and U.S. Representative John Lewis will address graduates

Approximately 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students will graduate at Georgia Tech’s 241st commencement at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, December 17, 2011.  Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will address the doctoral and master’s ceremony at 9 a.m., while U.S. Representative John Lewis will address the undergraduates at 2 p.m.

U.S. Representative John Lewis
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U.S. Representative John Lewis will address the undergraduates at the fall 2011 commencement.

Reed was inaugurated as the 59th mayor Atlanta on January 4, 2010. Since taking office, Reed has hired more than 200 police officers, improved fire-rescue response times, reopened all of the city’s recreation centers, and improved the service delivery of city departments such as Sanitation and Public Works. During his first year in office, he increased the city’s reserves from $7.4 million to $56 million and initiated a series of reforms to address the city’s unfunded pension fund liability.

Prior to his election, Reed established a track record of leadership during his 11 years as a member of the Georgia General Assembly. He was first elected in 1998 as a state representative and served two terms. From 2002-2009, he served in the Georgia Senate, where he was vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

As an undergraduate member of Howard University’s Board of Trustees, Reed created a fundraising program that has contributed more than $10 million to the school’s endowment since its inception. He was appointed Howard University’s youngest general trustee in 2002 and remains a member of the Board of Trustees.

Chairman of the Transportation and Communications Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Reed also serves as chairman of the Regional Transit Committee of the Atlanta Regional Commission. He is a member of the Leadership Georgia Class of 2000 and Leadership Atlanta Class of 1998, and was named to the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship Class of 2007. Reed is also a former board member of both the National Black Arts Festival and Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund.

Reed grew up in the Cascade community of Atlanta, where he attended Utoy Springs Elementary School and Westwood High School (now Westlake High School). He earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from Howard University; he also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater last March. Reed is a former partner of Holland and Knight LLP, an international law firm with offices in Atlanta.

Often referred to as  “one of the most courageous persons the civil rights movement ever produced,” Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress.

Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama.

As a student at American Baptist College, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the freedom rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons. He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.

During the height of the movement, Lewis helped form and was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was largely responsible for organizing student activism in the movement, including sit-ins and other activities. This included organizing voter registration drives and community action programs as well as the peaceful protest march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he was named associate director of the Field Foundation and participated in the Southern Regional Council’s voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the director of the Voter Education Project, which transformed the nation’s political climate by adding nearly 4 million minorities to the voter rolls.

In 1977, Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.

In 1981, Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council. While serving on the Council, he was an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s fifth congressional district ever since. He is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and chairman of its Subcommittee on Oversight.

Lewis holds a B.A. in religion and philosophy from Fisk University, and he is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, Tennessee. He has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees from prestigious colleges and universities, as well as numerous awards from imminent institutions, including the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Last year President Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The Timberland Company has developed the John Lewis Award to honor the congressman’s commitment to humanitarian service.

Lewis and his wife, Lillian Miles, who reside in Atlanta, have one son, John Miles.

About the Georgia Institute of Technology

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities, the Institute enrolls 21,500 students within its six colleges. Georgia Tech is the nation's leading producer of engineers as well as a leading producer of female and minority engineering Ph.D. graduates. Holding more than 848 patents and receiving approximately $689 million in research and development expenditures, Georgia Tech ranks among the nation's top ten universities (without a medical school) in research expenditures. Visit www.gatech.edu for more information.