Social Ethics Leader, NPR Contributor Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., to Give Keynote at W&J College Commencement Ceremony

Created: April 28, 2021
Last Updated: April 28, 2021

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Learn more about the 2021 Commencement Ceremony

WASHINGTON, PA (April 28, 2021) – Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., President-Emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., will be the keynote speaker at Washington & Jefferson College’s 222nd Commencement Ceremony.

The ceremony will be held Sunday, May 23 at Wild Things Park, adjacent to W&J’s Ross Memorial Park and Alexandre Stadium in Washington, Pa.

Franklin served as President of Morehouse from 2007 to 2012 and is currently a Senior Advisor to the President of Emory University. He also is the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at Emory. Previously, he was the director of the interfaith religion department at Chautauqua Institution (2013-2017) and a visiting scholar at Stanford University (2013). He is also a presidential fellow for the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership at Morehouse College.

Franklin was the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at Emory University (2004-2007), where he provided leadership for a university-wide initiative titled “Confronting the Human Condition and the Human Experience” and was a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at the law school. He provides commentary for the National Public Radio (NPR) program, “All Things Considered,” and weekly commentary for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting Television.

An insightful educator, Franklin 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, where he gained a national reputation as director of Black Church Studies. He also has served as program officer in Human Rights and Social Justice at the Ford Foundation, and as an adviser to the foundation’s president on future funding for religion and public life initiatives. Franklin also 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 (1999). Franklin also served as an advisor to the History Channel’s presentation titled, “The Bible” (2013).

In 1997, Franklin assumed the presidency of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), the graduate theological seminary of the Atlanta University Center consortium, and served until 2002. He served as Theologian in Residence for the 2005 season at the historic Chautauqua Institution.

Franklin is the author of four books: Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, Imagination (2020); Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities (2007); Another Day’s Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis (1997); and Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought (1990). He has co-authored (Don S. Browning, et. al.) a volume titled, From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate (2001). He also penned the foreword to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, Letter from Birmingham Jail, reprinted by Trinity Forum in 2012.

Franklin worked with three U.S. Presidents on various initiatives (President Clinton’s “One America” Initiative; President Bush’s “Faith Based Advisory Committee”; and President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative. Active in a range of organizations, Franklin serves on the boards of the Salvation Army, the CNN Dialogues Advisory Committee, and NASA’s 100-year Starship Project Advisory Board directed by former astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (Kappa Boule). He is a member of the Atlanta Falcons Advisory Board; Atlanta Rotary Club; 100 Black Men of Atlanta; the 1999 class of Leadership Atlanta; the Leadership and Sustainability Institute Working Group (of the Open Society Foundation); and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. He has previously served on the boards of the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education (ARCHE); the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (Executive Committee); the White House HBCU Capital Financing Advisory Board; the Atlanta Business League; and the Atlanta Mayoral Board of Service. Previously, he served on the boards of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Public Broadcasting of Atlanta, and Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting. In 2000, Mayor Bill Campbell appointed him co-chair of Atlanta 2000, the city’s official coordinating committee for Y2K activities and celebrations.

He is the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant to examine religion in public life in Asia and produced NPR commentaries based on this research. He has also served as a consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s work on alleviating poverty and strengthening fragile families.

Franklin graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse in 1975 with a degree in political science and religion, and earned an M.Div. at Harvard Divinity School (1978). He was a 1973 English Speaking Union Scholar at the University of Durham, UK, and earned a doctorate in ethics and society, and religion and the social sciences from the University of Chicago in 1985. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from Bethune-Cookman University, Ursinus College, Bates College, University of New England, Centre College, Hampden Sydney College and Swarthmore College.

About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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