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Commencement Speakers

Ben Jealous smiles at the camera in front of a lake.

2023 Ben Jealous

Ben Jealous is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, one of the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organizations in the United States. He is a New York Times best-selling author and a Rhodes Scholar who graduated from Columbia University.

From 2008 to 2013, Ben led the NAACP as the youngest-ever president and CEO of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization with more than 2,400 chapters. He launched the NAACP’s Climate Justice Program, which in 2012, the same year Unity became the first institution of higher education to divest its endowment from fossil fuels, issued “Coal Blooded: Putting Profits before People”, a report assessing the impact of the nation’s 378 coal-fired power plants on people of color and low-income communities. Read More >

2022 Dr. Sylvia Washington

Distinguished environmentalist, Dr. Sylvia Washington, will be featured as Unity Environmental University’s May ’22 commencement speaker. Dr. Washington is a highly accomplished and successful environmental epidemiologist, environmental engineer, historian, and clinician with over 30 years of research experience working on the impact of industrial pollution on human health. Read more > 

2020 Danni Washington

Ms. Washington is the host of TV’s Xploration Nature Knows Best and co-founder of Big Blue & You, a nonprofit organization dedicated built to inspire and educate young people about ocean conservation using media and the arts. She studied Marine Science and Biology at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, was the official spokesperson at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in 2018, and was named the 2018 Emerging Female Leader of the Year by EarthX. Ms. Washington has a passion for science, keeping our oceans clean, and encouraging future generations to pursue science and sustainability. Read more >

2019 Travis Mills

Travis Mills is one of only five quadruple amputees to survive their injuries received in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he documented his road to recovery in his memoir Tough as They Come, a New York Times Best Seller. Read more > 

2018 Jeff Corwin

Jeff Corwin is an internationally renowned wildlife conservationist and television personality who has inspired a generation of the conservation-minded by sharing stories about the wild on shows including “Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin” and CNN’s “Planet in Peril” with Anderson Cooper. Read more >

2017 Jimmy Chin

Jimmy Chin is a National Geographic photographer, North Face athlete, and director of acclaimed films “Meru” and “Free Solo.” Read more >

2016 Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp is the founder of the nonprofit organization Outdoor Afro, which has chapters all across the United States. Outdoor Afro uses a multimedia approach grounded in personal connections and community organizing to build a broader community and leadership in nature. Read More >

2015 Terry Tempest Williams

Terry Tempest Williams is a naturalist, free-speech advocate and “citizen writer” who has consistently shown how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. Read More >

2014 Céline Cousteau

Céline Cousteau is a socio-environmental advocate known for her work as documentary film director, producer, explorer, artist, public speaker, brand ambassador, and designer. She is the daughter of ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau and granddaughter of legendary filmmaker Jacques Cousteau. Read More >

Last Updated on August 4, 2023