Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry to Speak at 2024 Commencement

The first Black leader of the Episcopal Church will address graduating students for Kenyon’s 196th Commencement during its bicentennial year.


The Most Rev. Michael Curry.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church who has spoken out on a number of social justice issues — including marriage equality, immigration policy, climate change and racial reconciliation — will be the featured speaker at the College’s 196th Commencement on May 18.

Curry is the first African American to serve as the Episcopal Church’s chief pastor, spokesperson, and president and chief executive officer. Senior Class President Rachel Chen ’24 announced his selection to the Class of 2024 on Feb. 9 during Fandango, an annual celebration held 100 days prior to graduation. 

“There are very few individuals who would be more fitting for giving the Commencement address,” Chen said. “Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will certainly deliver a powerful and compelling message to us, and it will truly be an honor for the Class of 2024, as we prepare to leave Kenyon, to be graced by the wisdom of a great figure who has already left indelible marks on the world.“

President Julie Kornfeld said it will be a privilege to hear from Curry, who previously visited campus in 2018.

“Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is a changemaker who has worked tirelessly for the advancement of social justice and reconciliation. His words and deeds have brought hope and inspiration to many. I look forward to welcoming him to campus,” she said. “His presence offers a nod to Kenyon’s heritage during our bicentennial year and also a vision of a future worth striving for as the Class of 2024 begin their post-college lives.”

Kenyon was founded in 1824 by Philander Chase, the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. While the College is now nonsectarian, the presence of the Church of the Holy Spirit on campus remains a reminder of Kenyon’s Episcopal origins. 

A Chicago native, Curry was ordained a priest in 1978 and served parishes in North Carolina, Maryland and Ohio, near Cincinnati. In 2000, he was elected as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, and in 2015, he was elected to a nine-year term as presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. 

Over the years, Curry has worked to create networks of family day care providers and educational centers and brokered millions of dollars of investment in urban neighborhoods.

Curry graduated with high honors from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and earned his Master of Divinity degree from Yale University. He is the author of five books and a regular guest on national and international media outlets. He also delivered a noteworthy address at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

James Keller
Professor of Chemistry James Keller.

The day before Commencement, Professor of Chemistry James Keller will give this year’s Baccalaureate address. 

Selected by the Class of 2024, Keller joined Kenyon’s faculty in 2000 as a Camille & Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Awardee. A winner of the College’s Faculty Advising Award in 2020, he has served as department chair and as chair of the faculty, as well as visiting professor at the University of British Columbia.

Keller’s research interests focus on fundamental questions of chemical physics, and he currently experiments with molecular plasma. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Williams College and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Chicago.