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Columbia University professor Roosevelt Montás to serve as 2022 Commencement speaker

Roosevelt Montás

Roosevelt Montás, a senior lecturer in American Studies and English at Columbia University, will serve as Randolph College’s 2022 Commencement speaker.

The ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. in WildCat Stadium

Montás is one of the nation’s leading experts on the history, meaning, and future of liberal education, something close to the heart of Randolph President Bradley W. Bateman, who is retiring this June after a nine-year tenure.

“Roosevelt Montás is one of the most passionate advocates for liberal education in America today,” Bateman said. “Thus, he will be able to speak to the Class of 2022 about the unique journey they have undertaken at Randolph College.”

Montás was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York as a teenager, where he attended public schools in Queens before entering Columbia University in 1991 through its Opportunity Programs.

Columbia’s core curriculum, a required set of courses for all undergraduate students, found him studying the Iliad and the Odyssey, ancient Greek plays, and philosophical texts, followed by one semester art and music courses.

“It’s a profoundly transformative experience,” Montás told Humanities, the magazine of The National Endowment for the Humanities. “These courses gave me the intellectual architecture, a kind of infrastructure upon which my whole education developed. That was the liberal education at Columbia. It is liberal because it is not oriented toward any career or occupation. It is a common general education.”

Montás completed his Ph.D. in English at Columbia, during which time he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student.

He specializes in Antebellum American literature and culture, with a particular interest in American citizenship. His dissertation, Rethinking America: Abolitionism and the Antebellum Transformation of the Discourse of National Identity, won Columbia’s 2004 Bancroft Award.

Montás, who was director of Columbia’s Center for the Core Curriculum from 2008 to 2018, regularly teaches moral and political philosophy in the Columbia Core Curriculum, as well as seminars in American Studies.

He is also director of the Center for American Studies’ Freedom and Citizenship Program, which brings low-income high school students to the Columbia campus to study political theory and then helps them prepare successful applications to college.

His 2021 book, Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation, details the experiences of Montás as a student and teacher, telling the story of how the Great Books transformed his life and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds.

For more information about Commencement Weekend, visit

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