Lonnie Bunch, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, will be this year’s Commencement speaker, officials announced in a release Monday.
Bunch will also receive a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree when officials hold an in-person ceremony on the National Mall in the future, the release states. He is the first African American and the first historian to lead the Smithsonian, according to the release.
“Secretary Bunch’s contributions to the world, through his leadership of the Smithsonian, dedication to teaching and research and far-reaching influence on our understanding of history and culture are truly remarkable,” University President Thomas LeBlanc said in the release.
Bunch also served as a museum studies and history professor at GW from 1990 to 2000, the release states.
“His participation in our Commencement celebration is particularly special as we reflect on our University’s 200-year history and role in creating a better world, including through our museums, libraries, the arts and research,” LeBlanc said. “Secretary Bunch will be an inspiration to our graduates.”
Officials doubled down last week on their decision not to hold Commencement in person next month given restrictions GW will face with a ceremony on the National Mall, like National Park Service regulations. Provost Brian Blake said feedback revealed that students are willing to wait on an in-person Commencement until they can invite as many friends and family members as possible.
Nelson Carbonell, the former chair of the Board of Trustees, will also receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during the ceremony, according to the release.
“Mr. Carbonell’s contributions during his time on the Board include spearheading the construction of the state-of-the-art Science and Engineering Hall, reorganization of GW’s medical center and the acquisition of the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design,” the release states.