Past Commencement Speakers

Robert Michael Franklin

2016 181st UNE Commencement Ceremony
Dr. Robert michael franklin, jr.


Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., is the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership at Emory University (Atlanta) and director of the Religion Department of the Chautauqua Institution.

He has served as Senior Advisor for Community and Diversity, Emory University and was a Visiting Scholar in Residence at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. He is president emeritus of Morehouse College where he served as the tenth president from 2007 through 2012.

Franklin was the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at Emory University, and has served on the faculties of the University of Chicago, Harvard Divinity School, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. He was also program officer in Human Rights and Social Justice at the Ford Foundation and an adviser to the foundation’s president on future funding for religion and public life initiatives. In addition, Franklin was invited by American film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg to prepare an online study guide for the congregational use of The Prince of Egypt, a DreamWorks film. He also served as an advisor to the History Channel’s presentation, “The Bible.”

He has a degree in political science and religion from Morehouse and holds ordination in two Christian denominations: The American Baptist Churches USA and the Church of God in Christ. He earned the master of divinity degree Christian social ethics and pastoral care at the Harvard Divinity School, where he also served as assistant director of Ministry Education. Franklin continued his education at the University of Chicago, earning a doctorate in ethics and society, and religion and the social sciences. He also attended the University of Durham, U.K., as an English Speaking Union Scholar. He is also the recipient of honorary degrees from Bethune Cookman University, Bates College and Swarthmore College.

Franklin provides commentary for the National Public Radio (NPR) program, “All Things Considered,” and weekly commentary for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting Television. He is the author of three books: Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities, Another Day’s Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis and Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought. He co-authored (Don S. Browning, et. al.) a volume titled, From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate and penned the foreword to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, Letter from Birmingham Jail, reprinted by Trinity Forum in 2012. 

Previous Commencement Speakers

  • 2015 Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, President/CEO, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England 
  • 2014 Gregory W. Powell, J.D., CEO/President of Dexter Enterprises, Inc, & Chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation
  • 2013 Angus King (I), U.S. Senator, Maine
  • 2012 Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D)
  • 2011 Congressman Michael Michaud (D)
  • 2010 Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., President of the Institute of Medicine
  • 2009 Rita Colwell, Ph.D., Nationally-respected Scientist and Educator
  • 2008 John McKernan, Former Governor of Maine
  • 2007 Robert Shetterly, Maine Artist and Author
  • 2006 Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic Gold Medalist
  • 2005 Olympia J. Snowe, United States Senator, Maine
  • 2004 Henry L. P. Schmelzer, President and CEO Maine Community Foundation
  • 2003 Henry L. P. Schmelzer, President and CEO Maine Community Foundation
  • 2002 Daniel Wathen, Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court
  • 2001 Congressman Tom Allen, U.S. Congressman, Maine
  • 2000 Robert McAfee, Former President of the American Medical Association, UNE Board of Trustees member
  • 1999 Susan Collins, U.S. Senator, Maine
  • 1998 Richard MacPherson
  • 1997 Marvin Wachman, Ph.D.
  • 1996 Olympia Snowe, U.S. Senator, Maine 
  • 1995 Judith Isaacson
  • 1994 Rev. John Brooks
  • 1993 Thomas Andrews
  • 1992 Dorothy Cotton
  • 1991 Marie Gadsden, Ph.D.
  • 1990 George Mitchell 
  • 1989 Andrew McGuire
  • 1988 Dr. David Matthews
  • 1987 Dodge Morgan
  • 1986 Douglas Edwards
  • 1985 Assoc. Justice Caroline D. Glassman, Maine Supreme Judicial Court
  • 1984 Joseph E. Brennan, Governor of Maine
  • 1983 Arthur Elliott Levine, Ph.D., President, Bradford College (Bradford, MA)
  • 1982 James Russell Wiggins, Editor and Publisher, Ellsworth American
  • 1981 Honorable William S. Cohen, U.S. Senator, Maine
  • 1980 William J. Caldwell, Columnist, Portland Press Herald & Maine Sunday Telegram
  • 1979 F. Stephen Larrabee, Ph.D., National Security Council
  • 1978 Benjamin M. Ziegler, Ph.D., Educator, Amherst College
  • 1977 Honorable Sherry Huber
  • 1976 Dr. Elsa M. Meder
  • 1975 Dr. Scott Nearing, Economist, Farmer, and Author
  • 1974 Reverend Paul C. Reinert, President, St. Louis University
  • 1973 Dr. Kenneth E. Eble
  • 1972 Dr. Richard Weigle, President, Saint John’s College (Annapolis, Maryland)
  • 1971 The Honorable Kenneth M. Curtis
  • 1970 The Honorable James L. Farmer, A.B., B.D., Assistant Secretrary, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
  • 1969 The Honorable Frank Licht A.B., and L.L.D., Governor of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation
  • 1968 Mr. Edwin D. Canham, Editor-in-Chief, Christian Science Monitor
  • 1967 Dr. Donald M. MacKenzie, President, Park College (Parkville, Missouri)
  • 1966 Rev. Bernard Haring, Department of Religious Studies, Brown University
  • 1965 His Excellency The Most Reverand Ernest Primeau, Bishop of Manchester
  • 1964 Dr. John W. McDeVitt, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
  • 1963 Dr. Philip Lambert
  • 1962 Father Juvenal Lawlor
  • 1961 Rev. Edward V. Stanford
  • 1960 Reverend Msgr. Robert J. White
  • 1959 Mr. William B. Mahoney
  • 1958 Reverend Mark Franck
  • 1957 Dr. Harry Doyle
  • 1956 Reverend Kevin Kidd
  • 1955 Reverend Fernand Porter
  • 1954 His Excellency The Most Reverend Daniel J. Feeney