Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham will deliver commencement speech

Posted on May 1 2017 - 8:00am by Ashley Thusius

As the school year comes to an end, students and faculty are preparing for this year’s commencement ceremony in the Grove.

Next Saturday, May 13th, at the university’s 164th commencement ceremony, renowned author, presidential historian and journalist Jon Meacham will address the newest Ole Miss graduates.

Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham speaking with attendees at the 2016 Dinner with Jefferson hosted by the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona. (Courtesy: Gage Skidmore)

Meacham has led a fulfilling career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author, a former editor-in-chief of Newsweek and a contributor to Time magazine. He has written extensively on topics from politics to history and religion.

He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and later graduated summa cum laude from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Meacham joined the staff of Newsweek magazine in 1995 and within three years was named the publication’s managing editor. In 2006, he became Newsweek’s editor-in-chief.

Since stepping down from his editorial position at Newsweek in 2010, Meacham has appeared frequently on MSNBC’s weekday news show “Morning Joe.” He contributes columns and commentary to publications including The Washington Post and The New York Times Book Review.

According to The New York Times, he is “one of the most influential editors in the news magazine business.”

Meacham’s presidential biography, “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” earned him the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. He has authored biographies on American presidents George H.W. Bush and Thomas Jefferson as well. In these biographies, Meacham uses personal notes and journals from the presidents to show their approachable and reflective sides.

Noel Wilkin, interim provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the commencement ceremony in the Grove requires extensive planning and work by many people on campus.  

“Jon Meacham is often called upon to provide commentary and perspective on world events,” Wilkin said. “I am proud that our university has the reputation necessary to attract nationally recognized speakers. Ultimately, this reputation is the result of the hard work of our faculty and staff.”

The university’s senior leadership team makes recommendations and discusses various possibilities for candidates each year. However, the chancellor is ultimately responsible for choosing the commencement speaker.

The Provost Office is the coordinating office, Wilkin said, and, along with many other offices and departments on campus, it works to ensure commencement is a special and memorable day for graduates.

Associate professor of journalism Curtis Wilkie said he is looking forward to Meacham’s address.

“They’re supposed to be inspirational, and Jon is an excellent speaker who’s done some terrific books,” Wilkie said. “He also has a great sense of humor, so I think it will be the kind of speech that will keep everyone awake.”

Speakers are typically paid an honorarium fee to deliver their address, as they are investing both their time and willingness to prepare for the event.

Former speakers have included politicians, authors and prominent leaders like Gov. Phil Bryant, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and journalist Tom Brokaw.