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AUN names U.S. Ambassador as keynote speaker at varsity’s 13th commencement ceremony

AUN names U.S. Ambassador as keynote speaker at varsity’s 13th commencement ceremony

The United States Ambassador to Nigeria and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Mary Beth Leonard, has been named keynote speaker at the 13th Commencement ceremony of the American University of Nigeria (AUN).

The annual graduation ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, May 21, at the AUN main campus, will be preceded by the traditional Honor Society Award Night on Thursday and the Graduation Award ceremony on Friday. Students who have distinguished themselves in academics, service and leadership will be recognised and honored.

A release signed by Daniel Okereke, executive director, Marketing & Communications, a copy of which was made available to BusinessDay, stated that the 13th Graduation ceremony will feature the award of Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees to graduates who have met all the requirements for the award of the prestigious American University of Nigeria’s diplomas from the Schools of Information Technology and Computing, Law, Business and Entrepreneurship, and Arts and Sciences.

President of AUN, Margee Ensign, described the choice of Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard as Keynote Speaker as historic and significant.

“Ambassador Leonard’s visit to the American University of Nigeria is a reminder of the close ties and shared values between our two countries; countries committed to supporting education and democracy at a time when it is under threat in much of the world. We are honored to welcome her to our beautiful campus and look forward, as do our students, to her remarks on this important occasion.”

The AUN Governing Council and Senate have approved the conferment of a Doctor of Humane Letters (Honoris Causa) on the keynote speaker.

Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard will be continuing a tradition of exchange and interaction between high-level officials of the U.S. Government and AUN. Throughout its history, high-ranking U.S. Government officials and public figures have often visited the University, interacting with and mentoring students.

Ambassador Leonard’s distinguished diplomatic service career will resonate with students and faculty at a historic moment when women have assumed significant leadership positions at the University. The American University of Nigeria is committed to creating an enabling atmosphere for women to excel in learning, career, and leadership as reflected in membership in both the university’s Honor Society and in elected positions in the student government.

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Ambassador Leonard is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor. From 2016-to 2019, Ambassador Leonard was the Representative of the United States of America to the African Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, serving concurrently as U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). She was previously the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Mali from 2011-to 2014.

The ambassador graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Boston University, majoring in economics with a minor in French. In 1988, she earned a master’s degree in international relations, emphasizing African studies, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. In 2004, she received a Master of Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College with distinction. Being multilingual, Ambassador Leonard also speaks French, Spanish, Afrikaans, and Dutch.

Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard joins a respected array of diplomats, intellectuals, and civil society icons who have delivered Keynote addresses at AUN, including the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2009); former European Union ambassador to Nigeria, David Macrae (2011); National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Robert Pastor (2012); Civil Rights icon Charlayne Hunter-Gault (2013); former U.S. Ambassador to the African Union, John A. Simon (2014); Columbian Educationist, Victoria Colbert; and the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Akinwumi Adesina.