11:14 AM

A Message From President Loren J. Blanchard: Announcing the Speakers for UHD’s 74th Commencement

Millie GarciaDear UHD Community,

On May 20, 2023, we will confer degrees for the more than 1,400 Gators who have completed their graduation requirements and are now ready to enter the competitive workforce. This is an exciting time in the life of our university and one of my favorite moments of each semester. I wish to extend my early congratulations to all graduates.

To celebrate our graduates’ success, we will hear from two dynamic guest commencement speakers whose professional histories, service, and excellence are representative of the values we hold dear as a campus community. During our first ceremony, students from the Marilyn Davies College of Business and the College of Sciences and Technology will hear from Dr. Mildred García. Gerald McElvy, retired University of Houston System Regent, is the speaker for our second ceremony, celebrating our College of Public Service and College of Humanities and Social Sciences graduates.

Like many of our students, Dr. García was the first in her family to pursue a college degree. Her professional career is a testament to the value of a higher education and a representation of what is possible for our UHD graduates. Dr. García has held both academic and senior–level positions at Arizona State University; Montclair State University; Pennsylvania State University; Teachers College, Columbia University; and the Hostos, LaGuardia, and City Colleges of the City University of New York. In addition to her tenure with these institutions, Dr. García’s professional experience includes four distinct presidencies, including the system-wide appointment to lead Berkeley College, a for-profit institution with six campuses; California State University, Dominguez Hills; California State University, Fullerton; and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), which is her current presidential role.

Through each of her past presidencies, Dr. García left an indelible mark of improvement, ranging from successfully implementing strategic plans, opening new campuses, exceeding enrollment targets, increasing retention rates, and improving six-year graduation rates. Under her leadership at the California State University, Fullerton, the institution rose to number one at the state level and fifth at the national level in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics and students of color. Today, Dr. García is one of the most influential advocates for higher education in our nation, working on behalf of 350 colleges and universities. Proving time and again to be a trailblazer, she is a three-time first Latina president. A recipient of myriad honors and awards, Dr. García was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and by the U.S. Secretary of Education to serve on the Committee on Measures of Student Success.

Regent McElvy croppedOur second speaker, Mr. Gerald McElvy, is a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Houston. Mr. McElvy’s career started in the oil industry with Exxon Mobil Corporation, where he served for 33 years. His career included assignments across the United States, Europe, and Australia. In 2005, he was appointed President of the ExxonMobil Foundation, the primary philanthropic arm of the Corporation. Under his leadership, the Foundation distributed more than $1 billion in global contributions and built more than 25 primary schools and 10 public health posts in Angola, Nigeria, and Chad. Here in the U.S., the Foundation successfully expanded its summer science camps to include partnerships with more than 30 universities and started the National Math and Science Initiative, which significantly increased the number of well-qualified math and science teachers. Committed to excellence in education, Mr. McElvy served on the Advisory Board of the Texas Academy of Math and Science at the University of North Texas and as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Reasoning Mind, an innovative, early-grade math education program. 

Following this impressive business career, Mr. McElvy was appointed to the University of Houston System Board of Regents in 2015. Regent McElvy was an active member of three University of Houston committees: the Endowment, Facilities and Construction, and Audit Committees. He further advanced to two leadership roles, serving as Chairman of the Finance and Administration Committee, and subsequently as Vice-Chairman of the Board. Regent McElvy brought his commitment to increasing access to excellence in education to his work as a University of Houston Regent and served as a valuable source to and voice for each of our component universities, providing the necessary support to reach the highest levels of clarity, focus, and mission. 

I am proud such esteemed guest speakers will address the UHD graduates of the Class of Spring 2023. Please refer to the Commencement webpage for a detailed commencement schedule, the full bios of our keynote speakers, and additional information related to our upcoming graduation exercises.

I look forward to seeing all of you at NRG Stadium on Saturday, May 20. As our students cross the stage in fulfillment of their goal to earn a degree of value, let us celebrate them in their moment, remembering their impact on our institution and anticipating their influence far beyond the borders of our campus.


Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown