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Headshot of Jonathan Haidt2020 Commencement Speaker

Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D.

Jonathan Haidt (pronounced “height”) is a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 and taught for 16 years in the department of psychology at the University of Virginia.

Haidt’s research examines the intuitive foundations of morality and how morality varies across cultures — including the cultures of progressives, conservatives, and libertarians. His goal is to help people understand each other, live and work near each other, and even learn from each other despite their moral differences. Haidt has co-founded a variety of organizations and collaborations that apply moral and social psychology toward that end, including,, and

Haidt is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom and of The New York Times bestsellers The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, and The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (co-authored with Greg Lukianoff). In 2019, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was chosen by Prospect magazine as one of the world's "Top 50 Thinkers." He has given four TED talks.

Previous Commencement Speakers

  • 2019 Honorable Janet T. Mills, Governor of Maine
  • 2018 Catherine A. Sanderson, Ph.D., Manwell Family Professor of Life Sciences (Psychology), Amherst College
  • 2017 Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
  • 2016 Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership at Emory University, Director of the Religion Department of the Chautauqua Institution
  • 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 Honorable 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 Honorable 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