A celebrity chef known for activism and philanthropy will send off the Class of 2014, the University announced Tuesday.
José Andrés, who was named the best chef in North America three years ago, is already a familiar face on campus after teaching a course on food justice last year. He has already spoken several times on campus in the Marvin Center, Kogan Plaza and Lisner Auditorium to discuss sustainability and food issues.
He owns top-rated restaurants across the country, including Jaleo and Zaytinya in D.C. He was also named one of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world in 2012.
The 44-year-old is an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. He founded the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which tackles poverty and hunger in Haiti, Central America, South America and Africa.
“José Andrés brings boundless energy, wit and imagination to his work not only as a renowned chef but as a passionate champion of education, health and economic opportunity, both locally and globally,” University President Steven Knapp said in a release. “I know our graduating students will be stimulated and inspired by his reflections on his extraordinary and multifaceted career.”
Andrés, a native of Spain who became a U.S. citizen last year, is a member of GW’s Urban Food Task Force and special adviser to Knapp on food issues. He will receive an honorary doctorate of public service May 18, when 25,000 graduates and guests descend on the National Mall.
Andrés follows actress and alumna Kerry Washington, who headlined last year’s Commencement.
In previous years, GW has made national headlines for hosting big names like first lady Michelle Obama, former president George H.W. Bush, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Some of GW’s competitor schools have already announced their own commencement speakers. New York University students will hear from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, while Tufts University tapped Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of the New America Foundation.
Maudine Cooper, former president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League, will also speak at the ceremony. She previously served as D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s chief of staff.
She will join Russell Ramsey, who chaired the University’s Board of Trustees until last year, who is leading a local effort to bring the Summer Olympics to D.C. in 2024.