Georgia Tech Celebrates 245th Commencement

Tom Fanning, Kevin Riley and Ruth Simmons will address approximately 2,700 students

Approximately 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students will participate in the 245th commencement of the Georgia Institute of Technology taking place in three ceremonies, in McCamish Pavilion.

Kevin Riley
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Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will address the afternoon ceremony of the 245 commencement of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Georgia Tech will be awarding bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, through its six colleges and 29 schools. Each ceremony recognizes the graduates academic achievements at Georgia Tech and inaugurates a new era in their careers.

Thomas Fanning, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Southern Company, will address the undergraduate morning ceremony Saturday, May 4, at 9 a.m., while Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will address the afternoon ceremony at 3 p.m.

Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University, is the speaker for the Ph.D. and master’s ceremony on Friday, May 3, at 7 p.m.

Ernest "Ernie" Scheller Jr., chairman emeritus of Pennsylvania-based Silberline Manufacturing Inc., and Fanning will both be awarded honorary degrees during this spring’s ceremonies.

Scheller graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1952 with a bachelor's degree in industrial management. Today Siberline Manufacturing Inc. is a key global supplier of high-quality pigments—primarily to the automobile industry—that tremendously enhance the visual appeal of coatings, paints, inks, plastics, and textiles.  Under Mr. Scheller’s guidance, the company thrived and emerged as one of the top family-owned businesses in the United States. 

Fanning leads one of America’s largest producers of electricity. Elected by the board of directors in July 2010, Fanning became president of Southern Company in August 2010 and assumed the additional responsibilities of CEO and chairman in December 2010.

Fanning has worked for Southern Company for more than 30 years and has held 15 different positions in eight different business units, including numerous officer positions with a variety of Southern Company subsidiaries in the areas of finance, strategy, international business development and technology.

Most recently, Fanning served as chief operating officer, where he was responsible for Southern Company’s generation and transmission, engineering and construction services, research and environmental affairs, system planning and the company’s competitive generation business units. Fanning also was responsible for leading Southern Company’s efforts on business strategy and served as a director of Southern Nuclear, Southern Company’s nuclear plant operating company.

Fanning serves on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business advisory board, and the board of trustees for the Georgia Tech Foundation. He also is a member of the Business Roundtable and co-chairs the group’s North American Energy Policy Development Committee.

Fanning earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial management from Georgia Tech. His executive education includes programs at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Harvard University School of Business and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Riley was named the editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in January 2011.

He is a long-time employee of Cox Enterprises, which owns the Journal-Constitution. Riley started his career in 1983 at the Dayton Daily News in Ohio while a student at the University of Dayton. During his time in Ohio, Riley had many roles for Cox, including editor-in-chief of Cox’s four daily Ohio newspapers, publisher of the Springfield News-Sun and general manager for the Ohio online operations. He also wrote a column as editor in Dayton, something he also does in Sunday editions of the Journal-Constitution.

During his time in Atlanta, he has led a rejuvenation of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with an emphasis on investigative and watchdog journalism. The newspaper won the 2012 Hillman Prize for Newspaper Journalism and was a finalist for the 2013 Goldsmith Investigative Reporting Prize, awarded by Harvard University.

Simmons was president of Brown University from 2001-2012.  Under her leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.

A French professor before entering university administration, Simmons currently holds an appointment as a professor of comparative literature and of Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in romance languages and literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University and Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States.  At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college. 

Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. She has been a featured speaker in many public venues, including the White House, the World Economic Forum, the Economic Club of Washington, the Brookings Institute, the National Press Club, the American Council on Education and the Clinton Global Initiative.  An advocate for the University’s leadership on major public policy and higher education issues, she has worked on an array of educational and public policy issues, including excellence in institutional governance, the place of diversity in university life, the importance of liberal arts, the urgency of internationalization and broader access to education. 

Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the board of Texas Instruments as well as a number of non-profit boards.  Awarded numerous honorary degrees, last year, she received the Brown Faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal of Honor.

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