For several Penn students, the announcement of John Legend as commencement speaker felt like deja vu.
Legend, a 1999 College alum, spoke at the College graduation ceremony in 2009. Seventeen students who received bachelor’s degrees from the College in 2009 will hear him speak for a second time when they graduate from Ph.D., graduate and medical programs in May.
Elizabeth Mongol-Gunter, a 2009 College alumna who will graduate from the School of Veterinary Medicine in May, thinks Legend’s return to Penn is merited. “He earned the spot of a speaker,” she said. “I am proud to call him a fellow Penn alum.”
School of Social Policy & Practice graduate student and 2009 College graduate Katharine Cunningham agreed. While she was surprised at the choice of Legend because he spoke at a ceremony recently, she was not disappointed. Most graduating students will not have heard him speak, and his 2009 speech encouraging students to pursue careers about which they are passionate was “extremely memorable,” she said.
“It’s a message I don’t think a lot of Penn students hear too often,” Cunningham said, adding that most tend to be focused on tangible success rather than happiness. It’s also a message Cunningham has carried into her graduate studies in the field of social work.
Charlotte Lawson, another 2009 College graduate and a current medical student, remembers being more excited to hear then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt make the 2009 Commencement speech. To her surprise, she enjoyed Legend’s speech more.
“You can be more interested in the background of one person than another ... [but] how they deliver their speech is more important,” she said.
Lawson added that added she is still deciding whether to attend the ceremony. Mongol-Gunter, however, is excited to be there.
“Things are coming full circle,” she said.