Campus, News

Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp unveiled as 2013 commencement speaker

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore smiles at students after jumping into the Charles River Friday morning, along with College of Communication senior and Senior Class Gift Committee Co-Chair Mike DeFilippis. PHOTO BY MICHAEL CUMMO/DAILY FREE PRESS
Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore smiles at students after jumping into the Charles River Friday morning, along with College of Communication senior and Senior Class Gift Committee Co-Chair Mike DeFilippis. PHOTO BY MICHAEL CUMMO/DAILY FREE PRESS

Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, will deliver the 2013 Commencement address to graduating students on May 19, Boston University officials announced at the annual senior breakfast Friday morning.

“I wanted to have someone as our commencement speaker that has made a huge impact through what she has done coming out with an undergraduate degree, and you’ll hear from Wendy Kopp,” said BU President Robert Brown in his announcement.

Kopp founded Teach for America in 1989 as an organization where recent college graduates teach for two years in low-income communities. Currently, she serves as chair of the board of Teach for America.

Kopp is also CEO and co-founder of Teach for All, a network of enterprises that recruit future leaders to teach for two years in high-need areas.

College of Arts and Sciences senior Cassandra Castillo, one of BU’s three campus Teach for America representatives, said she is glad Kopp will be speaking at Commencement.

“She’ll have a lot of good stuff to say,” Castillo said. “She’s very accomplished.”

Castillo said about 20 BU students from the Class of 2013 are participating in the program Kopp founded.

“She started Teach for America to send teachers into low-income communities, and they’re not necessarily education students,” she said. “It could be college students from any major to teach for a two-year commitment.”

Brown said honorary degrees will be awarded to actor Morgan Freeman, engineer and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Robert Langer and former BU Trustee Bishop Peter Weaver, who will speak at the Baccalaureate service.

While Boston Mayor Thomas Menino received an honorary degree from BU in 2001, he will also be honored during Commencement as 2013 marks the end of his final mayoral term, Brown said.

This senior breakfast was the most successful ever with more than 2,200 students in attendance, said Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore during the breakfast.

Elmore fulfilled his promised to jump into the Charles River following the breakfast.

Senior Class Gift Committee Co-Chair Mike DeFilippis said Elmore had pledged to jump in the river if at least 2,013 donors contributed to the class gift. DeFilippis and Lindsey Garber, the other committee co-chair, promised to join Elmore if the total donors reached 2,236.

DeFilippis said Elmore also jumped in the river for the Class of 2011.

“The important thing about the river jump, in particular, is that we have a chance to start a tradition,” DeFilippis, a College of Communication senior, said. “… I hope, if we do continue this, the Class of 2014 will follow in our footsteps, and this will be one of the things the quirky and amazing Class of 2013 is known for.”

Brown acknowledged the students the Class of 2013 lost, including CAS senior Binland Lee, who died in a house fire in Allston Sunday, and CAS graduate student Lingzi Lu, who died in the Boston Marathon Bombings April 15.

“This morning as you go forward, I hope that you will reflect on how precious life is and how short our time on this earth can be,” he said. “This year, we have lost wonderful members of our community who would have been with you at commencement.”

The Class of 2013 also lost Austin Brashears, who would have graduated from CAS, and Daniela Leknho, who would have graduated from the School of Management. Both were killed in a car accident in New Zealand in May 2012.

“I hope you’ll always remember these young and exciting students and colleagues, and I hope you’ll hold your friends and your family close, because they are the foundation of the journey you will begin in two weeks,” he said.

SMG senior Dylan Duzey said he was pleased to see Brown recognize those students lost before graduation.

“You lose any member of a graduating class and it’s a big loss to the community,” he said. “It’s very important to recognize them and all the hard work that they had to put in.”

Duzey said he believes the Senior Breakfast is an appropriate tradition to raise spirit as graduation approaches.

“You can feel it that everyone is excited to graduate,” he said. “It’s going to be a good couple of weeks coming up.”


  1. As a parent I have been looking forward to this for 4 years. So disappointed. Watch her speech last year at Dartmouth. The local hack politician at my high school graduation gave a more entertaining and meaningful speech.

  2. anonymous

    As much as I understand what the Freep publishes is typically biased, this comment put me over the edge: “The important thing about the river jump, in particular, is that we have a chance to start a tradition.” As an active member of the 2011 Class Gift Committee, I take extreme offense to the 2013 group having the audacity to say they are STARTING a tradition. Last I checked, the people who came up with the idea, spent hours brainstorming, hours negotiating with the Dean’s group to get permission, and working with the BUPD for safety in jump are the ones that started this “tradition.” Adding in two seniors to the jump does not change the event in the slightest, people are going soley for the Dean and do not care that two seniors were willing to get their pants wet.

    While this “Worked” this year as a repeat event form 2011, I doubt the success will continue. I put worked in quotations as I am skeptical that you TRULY got 600 ADDITIONAL NEW donors from the last article published less than a week ago saying you were very short of your goal. What made 2011 so special is that it was an increase in 247% from the previous year, the first year EVER to focus on participation and make class gift an exciting part of the senior year with events and awarenss. As a fellow alumn, my best advice to these beloved chairmen who think they are starting a tradition is to give credit when credit is due. Otherwise, I promise you will fall quickly on your behind.

  3. Anonymous

    Angry 2011 grad, relax! It says in the article that he jumped in 2011 too. It’s incorrect for them to say they started the tradition, but everyone knows he jumped in 2011 and it should be taken as flattery that they decided to do it again. Being so bitter makes the whole 2011 CG committee look bad. Be happy for the class of 2013 that they did a great job with class gift this year!

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