Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

Please check back for updates as the October 2020 ceremony plans are developed. 

Federal Judge Richard M. Gergel, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Kathleen Parker, and CEO/President and professor emeritus Bernard Powers were originally scheduled to be the featured speakers during the 2020 College of Charleston Spring Commencement ceremonies.

These nationally recognized speakers plan to deliver their addresses to the graduates during the three graduation ceremonies in Cistern Yard.

Honorary degrees will also be presented. 

The Honorable Richard M. Gergel

Federal Judge Richard Gergel of South Carolina with a portrait of Judge J. Waties Waring behind him.Credit: Kate Thornton for The New York Times

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel presides in the same courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, where Judge Waties Waring once served. Waring is one of the central figures of Gergel's new book, “Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring” (Sarah Crichton). A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Gergel earned undergraduate and law degrees from Duke University. With his wife, Dr. Belinda Gergel, he is the author of “In Pursuit of the Tree of Life: A History of the Early Jews of Columbia, South Carolina.” Richard Gergel was a presiding judge in the trial of Dylann Roof, who was convicted of 33 federal charges relating to the Charleston church shooting in 2015.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen ParkerKathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture. In 2010, she received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “her perceptive, often witty columns on an array of political and moral issues, gracefully sharing the experiences and values that lead her to unpredictable conclusions.” A Florida native, Parker started her column in 1987 when she was a staff writer for the Orlando Sentinel. She joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 2006. Her columns are syndicated nationally and appear in more than 400 media outlets. Parker is  a popular guest on TV news programs and a regular guest on NBC's "Meet the Press" and MSNBC's "Hardball." She is the author of “Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care” (2008). 

Dr. Bernard Powers

Bernie PowersBernard E. Powers Jr., professor emeritus, is the interim CEO and president of the International African American Museum and Director of the Center for the Study of Slavery. For twenty-six years he was a professor of history at the College of Charleston teaching courses in American, African American, and African diasporic history.  In 2018 he became the College’s founding director for the Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston.  His first book, Black Charlestonians:  A Social History 1822-1885, was designated an “Outstanding Academic Book” by Choice Magazine. Powers is a co-author of We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel, which contextualizes the city’s racially motivated murders of 2015. He has published book chapters and journal articles and is currently researching black Methodism in South Carolina. Bernard Powers has appeared in African American oriented documentary films, including most recently the PBS production, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross and Emanuel: the Untold Story of the Victims and Survivors of the Charleston Church Shooting. Dr. Powers has served as a board member or consultant to several historic preservation organizations. He was the founding president of the Charleston Chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In 2019 that organization recognized his commitment to “research, writing, and activism in the field of African American life and history” with the Carter Godwin Woodson Scholars Medallion. Bernard Powers earned the Ph.D. in American history at Northwestern University and has been a board member for the International African American Museum since its inception.  Today he serves as its interim CEO and president.


» Read the College Today's article on the College of Charleston's Announcement of Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recpients.

» Want to nominate a future commencement speaker? Or view the list of previous honorary degree receipients? Visit the Committee on Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients webpage.