Commencement 2016: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to speak at URI’s 130th Undergraduate Commencement, May 22

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KINGSTON, R. I. — April 14, 2016 — The thousands of students and families gathered for the University of Rhode Island’s 130th Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 22, 2016 will hear from one individual whose words are part of the national dialogue on equal justice and constitutional law. The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, will address URI’s Class of 2016 and receive the Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa.


“We are very honored that Justice Sonia Sotomayor will join us to address our graduates on this important occasion. She is a true champion for equal rights and social justice in the 21st Century and a magnificent role model for our graduates and the entire community,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “We are very proud to have this unique honor to hear from someone who is now making history everyday.”


Justice Sotomayor is the 111th Justice to serve on the Supreme Court, and the first Hispanic and third woman to ascend to the nation’s highest judicial body. Justice Sotomayor’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in August 2009 followed a distinguished career of service in the courts. She served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998–2009. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992–1998. Prior to that appointment she had litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she served as an associate and then partner from 1984–1992. Before that, she served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 1979–1984.


Well known for her role in the court, Justice Sotomayor is also recognized and cherished for sharing her personal story and serving as a role model to millions of Americans. Born in Bronx, New York, her best-selling memoir, My Beloved World, captures her life growing up in the housing projects of New York and the challenges she faced and overcame. Signed copies of her book will be available at the URI Bookstore.


Justice Sotomayor earned a B.A. in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the university’s highest academic honor. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court


About URI Commencement, May 21-22, 2016


Held the second to the last weekend in May, Commencement is an opportunity to celebrate the success and accomplishments of students and the University as a whole. This is what the weekend includes:

Graduate Commencement: On Saturday, May 21, hundreds of students will be awarded the master’s and doctoral degrees during a ceremony at the Thomas M. Ryan Center.

Undergraduate Commencement: On Sunday, May 22, URI’s undergraduate commencement is one of the biggest events held in the State of Rhode Island. Thousands of undergraduates are expected to receive their degrees.


The day includes two distinct ceremonies: The University-wide Ceremony on the Quadrangle and the individual college diploma ceremony. The University-wide ceremony, at which Justice Sonia Sotomayor will speak, begins at 12:30 p.m. and includes the procession in full academic regalia, greetings by elected and academic officials, presentation of honorary degrees, the student speaker and all the pomp and circumstance. This ceremony is streamed live for those who may be unable to attend or who may choose to watch from an indoor location on the Kingston Campus.


Either before, or just after the University-wide ceremony, URI’s eight academic colleges will hold their ceremonies at which each student is called to the stage to shake hands with their dean, be photographed and are presented with an official diploma cover. These college ceremonies are not streamed or recorded for viewing.