Senior Adam Greenman and graduate student L. Trenton Marsh will address graduates and their friends and families at Sunday’s Commencement ceremony on the Ellipse.
Traditionally featuring only one student speaker, this year’s ceremony will mark the first time GW has chosen two students to address a graduating class. Marsh will also be the first African-American male student to speak at Commencement.
The students’ speeches will precede remarks by University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and four honorary degree recipients.
“I think it’s great that I’ll be sharing the role with another speaker. Trenton is a grad student, so we really appeal to two different constituencies,” said Greenman, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in political communication from the Columbian College of Arts and Science.
Marsh, who earned a master’s degree in human resource development, said he is proud to represent a diverse group of students.
“I think overall (my speech) is a message catered to all graduates, demonstrating that through our experience … we’re all going to graduate as leaders,” he said.
University Marshal Jill Kasle said Greenman and Marsh were among six candidates, each chosen by their college, to present speeches in front of a four-person faculty and administrator committee.
Greenman and Marsh both received the highest possible ratings from all four judges, said Kasle, who sat on the panel.
“Speaking on the Ellipse is a challenge,” Kasle said. “We needed people who would be absolutely on top of their form, and Adam and Trenton struck (us) as the people who could do it.”
Kasle said the faculty committee chose Greenman and Marsh based on certain attributes each speaker showed during their presentations.
“We evaluated student speaker candidates on things like (speech) content, poise, speaking ability and audience appeal,” she said.
This was the first time two candidates have ever received tie scores from the judges, Kasle said, and the selection committee decided that they would both speak at graduation. She added that it was a “happy accident” that both students were chosen.
Greenman, a Philadelphia native, said he has worked hard during his four years at GW and is most proud of his involvement with the Student Association. Greenman, who served as an SA senator during his junior year, ran unsuccessfully for SA president last year.
Greenman also served as a group leader with GW’s Community Building Community program, a group that participates in community service projects throughout D.C.
After graduating from the School of Media and Public Affairs, Greenman said he is going to enter Teach for America, a nation-wide teacher recruitment program that provides education to students in low-income areas. Greenman will be a teacher at a school in Camden, N.J.
Marsh left his hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, to attend American University as an undergraduate and later enrolled in GW’s Graduate Human Resource Development program.
“I entered my current program because of its national ranking and faculty, and this degree allows me to go into business consulting – focusing on organizational behavior, human resource development and organizational development issues,” Marsh said.
During his two years at GW, Marsh has served as the president of both the Human Resource Development Student Association and Black Graduate Student Association. He was also a community facilitator in Thurston Hall and a peer leadership mentor.
Marsh said he plans on working for a consulting firm.
Greenman and Marsh were notified of their selections April 20. “Last year I was working (at) Commencement for the University, and I got the chance to hear Gov. Mark Warner’s speech and the student speech,” Greenman said. “I thought both were amazing speeches, and sitting there listening, I thought about what a great opportunity and challenge it would be to speak at Commencement and to try to be as inspirational or motivational as the two of them were.”
Marsh said he feels blessed to speak at Commencement.
“I’m a firm believer in God, and when I got accepted (to GW) my prayer was two-fold,” he said. “The first was that I would graduate with a 4.0 (GPA), and the second was to be a commencement speaker.”
-Michael Barnett and Gabriel Okolski contributed to this report.