Va. governor will speak at graduation

Posted 6:20 p.m. April 8-Virginia Governor Mark Warner will speak at the May 18 Commencement ceremony, a spokesman in the governor’s office and GW officials confirmed Tuesday.

Warner, 48, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from GW in 1977 and is a former member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

“The governor feels a personal connection to George Washington and the city,” said Kevin Hall, a Warner spokesman. “It was where he was bitten by the political bug.”

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said GW has asked Warner to speak in the past, but scheduling conflicts arose.

“It all came together,” he said, adding the Democrat was the University’s first choice this year.

“He is a GW alum, he is a successful entrepreneurial businessman, he is a public servant in a adjacent state,” Trachtenberg said.

Now a self-made millionaire with an estimated fortune of $200 million, Warner has worked as a paperboy, a dishwasher, a stock boy, a shoe salesman and a janitor at a hospital, according to the Washington Post. He graduated with a B.A. from GW in 1977, the first member of his family to receive a college degree, and became an active member of the Democratic Party.

Warner graduated from Harvard Law School in 1980 and went on to be a founding partner in the Columbia Capital Corporation, a venture capital fund in Alexandria, Va. The organization started more than 65 businesses, which employ more than 15,000 workers, according to the Warner’s official biography.

In 1996, Warner lost a U.S. Senate bid to popular incumbent Virginia Republican John Warner by 6 percentage points.

Mark Warner was inaugurated as the Virginia governor in January 2002 to find that the projected budget shortfall in Virginia had been drastically underestimated and the state was in a serve financial crisis. He managed to present a balanced budget within the first 100 days in office.

An advocate of gun rights and a moderate fiscal conservative, Warner has championed a conservative, business-oriented approach to state spending.

Students can expect an official list of this year’s honorary degree recipients and details on the Commencement ceremony in the next week, Trachtenberg said.

Past commencement speakers have included Bill Cosby, former Sen. Bob Dole, Colin Powell and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Last year Brown University President Ruth Simmons gave the address.

—Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.

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