ESPN President John Skipper will give the commencement address at Tuskegee University on May 13.
Skipper was invited to address the class of 2017 by Tuskegee President Brian Johnson, who said, “Tuskegee University is thrilled to have John serve as our commencement speaker. His leadership of one of the single most prominent media organizations in the world, as well as his influence in linking sports, media and culture to socially significant matters, is precisely the kind of voice we are proud to have speak to our very best and brightest. John is deeply aware of our rich tradition and we are confident he will inspire students who are embarking upon their own impactful trajectory.”
Located in Tuskegee, Ala., the school of 3,100 students was founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington and is one of the 107 HBCU schools (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). ESPN, of course, has established a strong connection to HBCUs (see sidebar below).
Skipper stated, “It is a great honor and privilege to be invited to speak. Tuskegee is meaningful to me for its spectacular historical legacy and because of ESPN’s link to HBCU schools, including beyond the athletic events we cover. I look forward to being there, meeting students, interacting and learning more about Tuskegee University.”
Skipper follows two prominent speakers the last two years at Tuskegee: actor Tyler Perry and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Tuskegee is distinguished by its emphasis on STEM disciplines of study – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Helping raise ESPN’s profile among today’s scholars who can help create the infrastructure and systems supporting ESPN’s platforms and products of the future can only benefit everyone involved.
Jon McLeod produced the video.
ESPN & HBCUs
ESPN has a long history with HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), including recruiting efforts and internships, as well as coverage of HBCU sports.
ESPN Events has operated the MEAC/SWAC season-opening football game between the two HBCU conferences in Orlando since 2005. Also, in 2015 ESPN Events created the Celebration Bowl football game between the champions of those two conferences. The game is played in December in Atlanta.
Also, ESPNU recently told the inspiring story of Tuskegee baseball pitcher Darien Brown. He has Arthrogryposis, a disease dealing with the muscle and joints and has fought through 21 corrective hip and leg surgeries. The piece was a product of the “ESPNU Campus Connection” initiative with TU student Aliyah Smith as the reporter.
In addition, a section devoted to HBCUs is one of the four primary verticals for The Undefeated, with coverage of sports, culture and news. Other initiatives involving The Undefeated and HBCUs:
- As part of its mission to develop new voices and serve as an incubator for future multicultural journalists, in March The Undefeated launched the inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows – a two-year sports media internship program focused on identifying and training aspiring African Americans from HBCUs. While at school, the fellows serve as paid on-campus correspondents covering HBCU sports, news, and local college and pro teams. During the summer, they’ll spend 10 weeks gaining first-hand experience in sports journalism at ESPN.
- Last October, The Undefeated convened a Conversation with President Barack Obama at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro – a nationally-televised dialogue on sports, leadership and achievement between the U.S. President and the HBCU students and community.
– Dave Nagle and Mac Nwulu