UHD 74th Commencement Speakers Announced
Extraordinary Leaders to Provide Addresses
More than 1,400 Gators are destined to receive their diplomas during UHD’s 74th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 20, at NRG Stadium, and we couldn’t be prouder!
Commencement will be held in two separate ceremonies by academic college. The first ceremony at 11 a.m. will celebrate those graduating from the Marilyn Davies College of Business and the College of Sciences and Technology. The second ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and College of Public Service.
Two dynamic leaders will deliver the commencement addresses: Dr. Mildred García, President of American Association of State Colleges and Universities, for the first ceremony at 11 a.m., and Gerald W. McElvy, former President of the ExxonMobil Foundation and former Vice-Chairman of the University of Houston System Board of Regents, for the 4 p.m. ceremony.
Both speakers have left their mark on the transformation of education in the U.S. and abroad, impacting historically underserved students and changing the trajectories of thousands of lives and generations to come. They are sure to share their wisdom in navigating challenges and effecting change.
Dr. Mildred García
Dr. Mildred García assumed the presidency of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) on Jan. 22, 2018. As AASCU’s President, Dr. García is an advocate for public higher education at the national level, working to influence federal policy and regulations on behalf of nearly 400 member colleges and universities. She serves as a resource to presidents and chancellors as they address state policy and emerging campus issues, and she develops collaborative partnerships and initiatives that advance public higher education. She is the first Latina to lead one of the six presidentially based higher education associations in Washington, D.C.
Prior to joining AASCU, Dr. García served as the President of California State University (CSU), Fullerton, the fourth-largest university in the state, serving nearly 39,000 students with an operating budget of almost half a billion dollars. During her tenure as President, the University improved its six-year graduation rate by 20%. Under her leadership, the institution was number one in California and fifth in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanic students.
In addition, Dr. García previously served as President of CSU Dominguez Hills where, upon her appointment, she became the first Latina President in the largest system of public higher education in the country. She eliminated a structural deficit of $2.8 million; increased media placement by 192%; received the highest reaccreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges; exceeded enrollment targets not met for eight years; increased donor giving by 140%; and increased retention rates for first-time, full-time freshmen by 10%. Prior to her arrival in the CSU, President García served as the CEO of Berkeley College, a for-profit institution, where she was the first system-wide president for all six campuses.
She 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.
A recipient of myriad honors and awards—from Hispanic Business Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Hispanics in 2007 to The Washingtonian’s Most Influential People in Washington in 2021—Dr. García was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and the U.S. Secretary of Education to serve on the Committee on Measures of Student Success. She currently sits on the boards of ETS, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), and American Academic Leadership Institute (AALI). In addition, she served as the Co‐Chair for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Value Commission.
A first‐generation college student, Dr. García earned a Doctor of Education degree and an M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University; an M.A. in Business Education/Higher Education from New York University; a B.S. in Business Education from Baruch College, City University of New York; and an A.A.S. from New York City Community College.
Gerald W. McElvy
Gerald W. McElvy retired after a 33-year career with Exxon Mobil Corporation. His career included assignments across the U.S. and in Europe and Australia as well as functional and global leadership positions in financial and general management. In 2005, Mr. McElvy was appointed President of the ExxonMobil Foundation, the primary philanthropic arm of the Corporation. During his tenure, the Corporation distributed more than $1 billion in global contributions. Partnering with Save the Children and other international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Foundation built more than 25 primary schools and 10 public health posts in Angola, Nigeria, and Chad. In the U.S., the Foundation successfully expanded its partnership with the ExxonMobil Dr. Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps to include more than 30 universities, and started the National Math and Science Initiative, which has substantially increased participation in Advanced Placement math and science classes and significantly increased the number of well-qualified math and science teachers.
Following retirement from ExxonMobil, Mr. McElvy remained active in entrepreneurial and community service activities. He served as Executive Vice-President of Branwar Wine Distributing Company, a Houston-based importer and distributor of fine wines from South Africa, Italy, Argentina, and Napa Valley, California. He also served on the Advisory Board of the Texas Academy of Math and Science at University of North Texas and as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Reasoning Mind, an innovative, early-grade math education program working to transform and improve U.S. math education.
In 2015, Mr. McElvy was appointed to the University of Houston System Board of Regents and served as Vice-Chairman. He was also Chairman of the Finance and Administration Committee, and a Member of the Endowment, Facilities and Construction, and Audit Committees.
Mr. McElvy holds professional memberships in Financial Executives International and the Executive Leadership Council. He is a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Houston, where he earned a B.B.A. in Economics, and he completed an MBA in Finance from UCLA. A native of Ft. Worth, Texas, Mr. McElvy is married to Sylvia McElvy, and they have two sons.