PSU Announces Keynote Speakers for 151st Undergraduate Commencement and Graduate Commencement Ceremonies

Gennet Zewide, Ph.D., former Ethiopian ambassador to India and Ethiopian minister of education, will deliver the keynote address and be recognized by Plymouth State University (PSU) at its 151st undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7, at 10 a.m. John T. Broderick, Jr., senior director of external affairs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health and former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, will be the featured speaker at PSU’s graduate Commencement ceremony on Friday evening, May 6, at 6 p.m.  

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Zewide back to campus for the first time since she graduated in 1973, as we honor this year’s graduates,” said President Donald L. Birx, Ph.D. “Dr. Zewide has long been an advocate for equal access to education for women and girls and she has been instrumental in empowering women of Ethiopia. Her work embodies PSU’s motto, Ut Prosim, ‘That I may serve,’ and we are honored to have her join us for this year’s ceremony.” 

Dr. Zewide will address undergraduate students and will be honored by PSU with an honorary doctorate in public service degree for her work as a leader in education for women and girls. After graduating from PSU in 1973, Dr. Zewide earned a master’s degree from Suffolk University and received her Ph.D. in political thought and comparative politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University in India in 2010.  

Dr. Zewide was a lecturer at Addis Ababa University (AAU), Ethiopia’s oldest higher education institution, from 1973 to 1991, and served as a chairperson of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE). She also served as Ethiopia’s minister of education from 1992 until 2005, when she became ambassador to India, a position she held until 2015. Dr. Zewide was also a member of the executive board of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representing East Africa and served as an external examiner at Kenyatta University in Kenya. In 2014, she published, Resistance, Freedom and Empowerment: the Ethiopian Women’s Struggle. 

John Broderick Jr. will address students who have earned graduate degrees and certificates from PSU. He will also be presented with the University’s Granite State Award for his contributions to the state of New Hampshire and his commitment to changing the conversation and eliminating the stigma around mental illness. Broderick holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. After more than 20 years in private practice, Broderick served as associate justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court from 1995–2004 and as chief justice from 2004–2010. He served as dean and president of the University of New Hampshire Law School from 2010–2015, and since 2017 has served as senior director of external affairs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, where he champions the health system’s R.E.A.C.T. mental health awareness campaign.  

Over the past five years, Broderick has shared his personal experience with mental illness with more than 100,000 high school students, college students, business leaders and their employees, veterans, senior citizens, and others throughout New Hampshire and New England. He considers this effort to improve understanding and awareness of mental illness, to eliminate its stigma and encourage discussion and treatment, the most important work of his life.   

“We are honored to welcome Chief Justice Broderick back to campus as this year’s graduate Commencement speaker and to present him with the Granite State Award,” said President Birx. “The stressors of the ongoing pandemic have exacerbated mental health issues, which are a top concern on college campuses. The topic is so important to the PSU community and to New Hampshire, and John has been a tireless crusader for ending the stigma and encouraging conversations around mental health. PSU is continually evaluating and implementing ways to support student mental health and we are inspired by John’s mission to alter the discourse on this important topic.” 

The two Commencement exercises will take place indoors at the Bank of New Hampshire Field House on campus. Both ceremonies will be live-streamed for family and friends.  

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