Main content
Anthony Ray Hinton to deliver Emory Commencement address
Media Contact
Elaine Justice
Anthony Ray Hinton

Activist, writer and justice advocate Anthony Ray Hinton will deliver the keynote address at Emory University’s 178th Commencement, scheduled for May 8. Hinton spent 30 years on Alabama’s Death Row for crimes he did not commit.

Activist, writer and justice advocate Anthony Ray Hinton will deliver the keynote address at Emory University’s 178th Commencement ceremony, scheduled for Monday, May 8, on the Emory Quadrangle.

Hinton, author of The New York Times 2018 bestselling book “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row,” will receive a Doctor of Letters degree.

“By transforming unfathomable tragedy into positive advocacy and action, Anthony Ray Hinton has sent a powerful message of hope,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “His freedom was unjustly denied for nearly 30 years, yet he found peace and forgiveness and has dedicated himself to spreading truth and light in the world. On May 8, I will be very proud to welcome Mr. Hinton to our campus, listen to the moving words he will share with our graduates, and confer upon him an honorary degree from Emory.”

On Dec. 17, 1986, Hinton entered Death Row in Alabama for crimes he did not commit. He spent the next 30 years in custody until the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) secured his freedom.

Hinton now serves as an EJI community educator and a tireless and powerful advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. He also works with LifeLines, which supports prisoners on Death Row through letter writing.

“Im so honored to serve as Emorys commencement speaker this year,” says Hinton. “I always value the opportunity to share what Ive learned with young people getting ready to embark on their own journeys. I want to make sure young people know that even on the nights where there are tears (and there will be those nights), the sun will shine again.”

Honorary degree recipients

Two other individuals will receive honorary degrees at Emory’s Commencement: philanthropists and health care advocates James Cox Kennedy and Sarah Kenan Kennedy, who each will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Jim Kennedy is chairman emeritus of Cox Enterprises and chairman of the James M. Cox Foundation. The Foundation supports conservation and the environment, early childhood education, and empowering families and individuals for success and health. He launched Cox Conserves, a sustainability program at Cox that seeks to send zero waste to landfills by 2024 and become carbon-and-water neutral by 2034.

Sarah Kennedy, one of Atlanta’s most active, compassionate and effective civic leaders, serves on the Executive Advisory Council of the Emory Brain Health Center — a body whose members serve as ambassadors locally and nationally, contributing to the mission of the center through philanthropy, networking and advocacy.

Through personal and foundation giving, more than $90 million has been gifted to Emory, including landmark investments in patient care, brain health and cancer. Their contributions in the areas of sustainability, early childhood education, health care and the arts have helped improve the quality of life in our community.

Emory University Commencement Ceremony

Monday, May 8
8:30 a.m. | Emory Quadrangle

The Emory University Commencement Ceremony on the Quadrangle is a ticketed event for all 2023 graduates and their guests. Graduating students will receive information about registration and guests’ tickets via email. The event will also be livestreamed.

Visit the Commencement website for the full Commencement weekend schedule, information about planning your visit, answers to frequently asked questions, and more.

View the Commencement website

Recent News