March 9, 2012


Good Morning:

Each year our commencement celebrates the power of a Tulane education to transform lives. This notion is exemplified by Lisa Jackson, who will be the first Tulane graduate to serve as keynote speaker at our Unified Commencement.

Newsweek named Lisa one of the "Most Important People in 2010." TIME magazine featured her on its list of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" and she was included in Essence magazine's "40 Women Who Have Influenced the World" issue.

But Lisa's life began far away from the halls of power. She grew up in the Ninth Ward, a studious and talented young woman. She was first in her class at St. Mary's Dominican High School. She was also the top student in her class when she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Tulane. She went on to earn her master's in chemical engineering from Princeton before joining the EPA as a staff-level scientist in 1987. She was appointed EPA Administrator by President Barack Obama in 2008.

Lisa's career has taken her from the Ninth Ward to the White House, but New Orleans remains her inspiration. She learned about public service from her father, a New Orleans mailman. She learned the consequence of environmental degradation when the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina destroyed her childhood home just days after she had evacuated her mother from it. And she returned home again when the BP oil spill threatened Louisiana. In the aftermath of that disaster, she co-chaired the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which has developed a long-term strategy for saving our coast.

Lisa is using her New Orleans experience to make a lasting difference on the world stage. That is a great message for our graduates, and indeed all of us, to hear. Mark your calendars for Commencement 2012, 9 a.m. May 19 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. I'll save you a seat.

Have a great weekend,


Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638