A State Department senior advisor fighting human trafficking, the first African American female justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and a leading historian of the American South will give the addresses at the three ceremonies comprising the University of Richmond’s 183rd Commencement May 11-12.
Amy O’Neill Richard, a Richmond alumna and senior advisor to the ambassador at large to monitor and combat trafficking in persons (TIP office), will speak at the main commencement ceremony May 12 at 2 p.m., when undergraduates from the School of Arts & Sciences, Robins School of Business and Jepson School of Leadership Studies receive their degrees, along with MBA students. In a special recognition at the main ceremony, Richmond alumni and benefactors Carole M. Weinstein and Marcus M. Weinstein will receive The President’s Medal for their leadership in transforming the student experience and advancing academic excellence at the university.
Justice Cleo Elaine Powell of the Supreme Court of Virginia will address the School of Law ceremony May 11 at 2 p.m. Edward L. Ayers, award-winning historian of the American South and president of the university, will mark the 50th anniversary of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies when he speaks to its graduates May 11 at 9 a.m. All three ceremonies will take place at The Robins Center.
Richard’s groundbreaking research report, “International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery and Organized Crime,” contributed to the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and raised public awareness of the issue when widely reported in the national news media. The report’s recommendations became the initial baseline for assessing the U.S. government’s anti-trafficking efforts. Her work has earned her Shared Hope International’s Pathbreaker Award for raising awareness of child sex trafficking, as well as the State Department’s Swanee Hunt Award for Advancing Women’s Role in Policy Formulation and Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Affairs.
Richard earned her bachelor’s degree from Richmond, double majoring in political science and sociology, graduating magna cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She received her master’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University.Powell was elected to the Supreme Court of Virginia by the General Assembly in 2011, after serving as a General District Court and Circuit Court judge for Chesterfield and Colonial Heights, then as a judge for the Court of Appeals of Virginia. She began her career with the Richmond law firm Hunton & Williams as an associate in labor law and employment discrimination, before becoming the commonwealth’s senior assistant attorney general and chief, equal employment opportunity and personnel. She went on to work for Virginia Power, first as corporate counsel, then director of employee services.
Powell earned both her bachelor’s in American government and law degrees from the University of Virginia. Soon after, she was named an Outstanding Young Woman of America and one of the Outstanding Women Lawyers of Virginia. In 1987, Ebony magazine named her to its list of 30 Leaders of the Future. Virginia Lawyers Weekly recognized her as one of its Influential Women of Virginia 2010, among numerous other legal and leadership honors she has received during her career.
During his career, Ayers, who has served as Richmond’s president since 2007, has written and edited 10 books. His “The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction” was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. “In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America” won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history, as well as the Beveridge Prize for the best book in English on the history of the Americas since 1492. He was named National Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2003.
A pioneer in digital scholarship, Ayers created “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War,” a website that has attracted millions of users and won major prizes in the teaching of history. As Richmond’s president, he continues to teach an undergraduate seminar each year and is an active partner in the university’s Digital Scholarship Lab, which is producing a series of innovative projects widely used throughout the nation and beyond.
The President’s Medal is awarded on occasion by nomination of the university president and approval of the Board of Trustees. It honors individuals who have rendered exceptional and meritorious service to the university and beyond. The Weinsteins were selected for their family’s extraordinary generosity to the university, promotion of higher education, and strong leadership in the city and region, particularly with respect to cultural and religious life and institutions. Their support of the university over the course of many decades includes three major buildings, chairs in international education and Jewish and Christian studies, scholarships, and the Weinstein-Rosenthal Forum on Faith, Ethics and Global Society, among other gifts.