How is a commencement speaker chosen?
One of the highlights of commencement — the traditional ceremony during which college graduates are awarded the diplomas they worked for years to get — is having a noted speaker welcome graduates to the real world.
On March 21, the University announced that Arnold Schwarzenegger as the speaker for the third annual commencement ceremony.
Commencement is composed of university-wide commencement, the more well-known event, and college convocation, in which each college confers diplomas and recognize students individually.
The speaker at university-wide commencement, usually a prominent member of the community or a well-known popular culture figure, speaks on their own experiences and are usually conferred an honorary degree.
Like many universities, UH has a Commencement Speaker Selection Committee. The Committee, headed by the provost, has faculty, staff and student representation and meets and reviews potential choices and discuss costs, said committee member and former SGA President Shane Smith.
Students and members of the campus community are able to submit possible speakers via a form available year-round.
“It was partially community suggestions,” Smith said. “You could have just about anybody — Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, George Bush, George H. W. Bush. It’s really a whole bunch of possibilities.”
Once the committee has weeded out preliminary suggestions, they begin discussing more serious options. After an approval process by the President, an offer is made to a preferred speaker, who is announced once they accept.
At most universities, the first people considered for commencement are alumni — at UH, Jim Parsons, Elizabeth Warren and Dennis Quaid have all been discussed as potential speakers — however, other factors such as speaker’s fees and scheduling conflicts cause committees to look elsewhere.
For the past three speakers, UH has found inspiration from around the world — and beyond.
The committee was lauded for their for the first high-profile commencement speaker at UH, Matthew McConaughey, who was paid $135,000 for his speech, $130,000 of which were donated to his j.k. livin foundation.
When retired astronaut encouraged Spring 2016 graduates to reach for the stars, he was paid $35,000.
Schwarzenegger waived his $40,000 fee after learning of its negotiation by his representatives. The ex-governor of California and movie star will deliver his address to the class of 2017 at TDECU Stadium on May 12.