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Irish delegate, Savannah mayor, state lobbyist among speakers for Georgia Southern University’s Spring 2023 Commencement Ceremonies

Georgia Southern University has named five acclaimed speakers for the University’s Spring 2023 Commencement ceremonies on May 9, 10, 11 and 13.

Approximately 4,200 students will graduate with associates, baccalaureate, master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees this semester during five ceremonies in Statesboro and Savannah. Candidates will have the option to choose the location where they would like to graduate. 

Speakers have been finalized for each ceremony. 

The dates, colleges and speakers for each ceremony are: 

Tuesday, May 9, at 10 a.m. — Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro Campus
olleges of Arts and Humanities, Science and Mathematics, Waters College of Health Professions and Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health

Kathryn Lanier, Ph.D.

Kathryn Lanier, Ph.D., is a science education leader and master communicator currently serving as the director of STEM Education Outreach at Southern Research, a first of its kind position in Birmingham, Alabama. Since 2017, Lanier and her team have built their program from the ground up and impacted more than 225,000 students across Alabama.

In 2019, she was appointed to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s Advisory Council for Excellence in STEM. Lanier also was appointed to represent Alabama’s 6th congressional district on the Mathematics Course of Study Committee and Alabama’s 7th congressional district on the Science Course of Study Committee.

She serves as one of Gov. Ivey’s at-large representatives on the Alabama STEM Council. Her work on the council resulted in the creation of Alabama STEM Explorers, an Emmy Award-nominated series that aired on PBS and reached more than 100,000 viewers each week.

Lanier earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Georgia Tech, where she worked as part of the NASA Center for the Origin of Life. She graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2012 with a bachelor’s in chemistry. Lanier was in Georgia Southern’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2018 and named as part of Georgia Tech’s inaugural 40 Under 40 class in 2020. 

Wednesday, May 10, at 10 a.m. — Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro Campus
Parker College of Business and College of Education

H.E. Geraldine Byrne Nason

A native of the town of Drogheda in County Louth, Ireland, Her Excellency Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason assumed her role as Ireland’s 19th Ambassador to the United States in August 2022. Prior to that appointment, she was ambassador and permanent representative of Ireland to the United Nations in New York. Upon her arrival at the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Nason led Ireland’s successful campaign for a seat on the U.N. Security Council; and she led the New York Security Council team for the 2021-2022 term.

During her career, Ambassador Nason has served in Brussels, New York, Paris, Vienna and Helsinki. As Second Secretary-General in the Department of the Taoiseach, she was the highest-ranking female public servant in Ireland. A passionate advocate of women’s rights and empowerment, she served as chair of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (C.S.W.) for 2018 and 2019. She also co-chaired high-level political negotiations on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and on behalf of the vulnerable member states of the United Nations.

In 2014, Ambassador Nason was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy, the highest academic honor bestowed in Ireland. She holds an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Maynooth University as well as master’s and bachelor’s degrees in literature from St.Patrick’s College, National University of Ireland Maynooth. 

Thursday, May 11, at 10 a.m. — Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro Campus
College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing

Brandon Butler

Brandon Butler is a seasoned marketing and creative leader, currently serving as the CEO of Butter.ATL, Atlanta’s premier culture channel that showcases the people, places and experiences that make the city exceptional. Under Butler’s guidance, Butter.ATL expanded its ownership group to include recording icons Antwan “Big Boi” Patton and Michael “Killer Mike” Render.

Throughout his career, Butler has been involved in notable campaigns for major brands such as Sprite, Amazon, Major League Baseball, NBA and Nike. In addition to his role at Butter.ATL, Butler is a partner and chief content officer at Majority, AdWeek’s 2022 Breakthrough Agency of the Year, co-founded by Shaquille O’Neal. 

As an active participant in community and local initiatives, Butler serves as an advisory council member for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ “2023 Year of the Youth” campaign.

Recognized as one of Adweek’s Creative 100 in 2021 and listed among Atlanta Magazine’s 500 Most Powerful Leaders for 2020, 2021 and 2022, Butler has become a sought-after speaker and panelist within the region and beyond. 

Butler holds a bachelor’s in information technology from Georgia Southern and an MBA from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Saturday, May 13, at 10 a.m. — Enmarket Arena, Savannah
olleges of Arts and Humanities, Education, Science and Mathematics, Behavioral and Social Sciences, Parker College of Business and Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing

Honorable Van R. Johnson II,
Mayor of Savannah

Purpose, passion and people are the core principles that guide and drive the life of the Honorable Van R. Johnson II, the 67th mayor of the city of Savannah.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, but with strong Savannah roots, Mayor Johnson is a graduate of the New York City Public School System and has earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Savannah State and Georgia Southern. 

Mayor Johnson is only the 4th elected official from Savannah to serve on the board of directors of the National League of Cities. He also recently served as chair of the advisory board of the National League of Cities, becoming the first Savannahian to hold such an office. 

He is nationally recognized as an innovator and thought leader in the areas of youth development and engagement through his service of over 23 years as the director of the Chatham County Youth Commission. 

Mayor Johnson’s leadership and humanitarian efforts have been recognized broadly. He has been conferred the Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Savannah State University and served as the 2017 Savannah Martin Luther King Observance Day Parade Marshal. In 2017, he was a Savannah Black Heritage Festival honoree, recipient of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia Civic and Community Service Award and the King Tisdell Cottage Foundation’s James P. Simms Public Service Award, and a 2016 Savannah State University Fellow. He is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the International Fraternity of Delta Sigma Pi and numerous other social and civic organizations. 

Saturday, May 13, at 3 p.m. — Enmarket Arena, Savannah
Waters College of Health Professions and Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health

Rebecca King

Rebecca King is currently a state lobbyist for the American College of Surgeons (ACS) based in Washington, D.C. where she advocates on behalf of more than 75,000 surgeons and their patients in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In her role, she empowers surgeons to engage state legislators on a wide variety of health policy issues such as Medicaid expansion, surgical quality and safety, physician payment, medical liability reform, cancer screenings and prevention, state trauma system funding and many more.

King is a Double Eagle and attributes much of her success to her professional involvement with Campus Recreation and Intramurals (CRI) while a student at Georgia Southern. Since graduating with a bachelor’s in public health in 2015 and a master’s in healthcare administration in 2017, she has had incredible opportunities that range from optimizing a surgical service line of a $2.5 billion health care system to designing and implementing national patient health education programs.

Prior to transitioning her career to government affairs, King managed an employee wellness program for a national cancer research institute in Bar Harbor, Maine, in addition to the National Health Service Corps program for a 9-hospital healthcare system in upstate New York where she first began as a healthcare administrative fellow.

In addition to her work with the ACS, she is actively involved with the premier networking organization, Women in Government Relations, where she completed the Judy Schneider Policy Fellowship, and is co-chair of the Georgia Southern D.C. Area Alumni Network.


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