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Randolph College announces 2014 Commencement speaker

Edward L. Ayers will deliver Randolph College’s 2014 Commencement address on May 18. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. in The Dell.

Ayers, who has served as president of the University of Richmond since 2007 and plans to step down from that role in 2015, is a historian who is well known for his books on the American south and the Civil War, as well as his digital historical archive projects. In 2013, President Barack Obama honored Ayers’ work by awarding him the National Medal for the Humanities.

“We are excited to have a scholar such as Edward Ayers speak at our Commencement,” said Randolph College President Bradley W. Bateman. “I hope our students, especially the graduating class, will learn from his love of learning and his passion for sharing knowledge with others. He is an example of a scholar who breaks down barriers to understanding in order to make a real difference in our world.”

A native of Tennessee, Ayers has made significant contributions to America’s understanding of the Civil War and Southern history. In 1992, his book The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction was named a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In Richmond, he has led efforts to understand the Civil War and the role that slavery played in the war. He is founding chair of the American Civil War Museum, created by the merger of the Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center.

He has led several digital scholarship projects that use technology to visualize historical data and make archives more accessible. These projects include The Valley of the Shadow, which uses letters, diary entries, newspaper articles and speeches to explore the experience of hundreds of ordinary people during the Civil War, and A Digital Atlas of American History, which Ayers is co-directing with the University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab.

Ayers also is a co-host of BackStory, a nationally syndicated radio show that ties history to the present day. After he steps down as Richmond’s president, he will continue his scholarly work and remain on the university’s faculty.

Before becoming president of the University of Richmond, Ayers was dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. In 2003, he was named National Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.


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