Jackson State University Announces TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett and Under Secretary Homer Wilkes as the 2022 Spring Commencement Speakers

JACKSON, Miss., April 11, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Jackson State University (JSU) is pleased to announce two dynamic leaders will speak during the 2022 commencement exercises. TIAA President and CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett will serve as the speaker for the graduate student ceremony on Friday, April 29th at 9 a.m. CDT; and Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment Homer Wilkes, Ph.D., will serve as the speaker for the undergraduate student ceremony on Saturday, April 30th at 9 a.m. CDT.

"We are honored to have two distinguished titans of industry join us for our Spring commencement exercises to share their career success and words of wisdom with our graduates," said President Thomas K. Hudson, J.D. "Mrs. Duckett has strategically climbed the corporate ladder to serve as CEO three times over, from Chase Auto Financing to Chase Consumer Banking and now TIAA. Dr. Wilkes, our native son, has broken barriers to become the first African American to hold his title at the Department of Agriculture. We are grateful to have both of these history-makers join us for this auspicious occasion." 

Commencement Event Protocols:

  • This is a non-ticketed event.
  • There will be no processional for graduates.
  • There will be spaced seating among the graduates.

About Thasunda Brown Duckett, MBA

Thasunda Brown Duckett leads TIAA, a Fortune 100 provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused investment solutions to millions of people working in higher education, healthcare and other mission-driven organizations. As CEO, Duckett leads a company whose mission is defined by financial inclusion and opportunity – goals and values she has upheld throughout her career.

Duckett joined TIAA after serving as Chief Executive Officer of Chase Consumer Banking, where she oversaw a banking network with more than $600 billion in deposits and 50,000 employees. Previously, she was the CEO of Chase Auto Finance, one of the leading U.S. providers of auto financing, and National retail sales executive for Chase Mortgage Banking, where she managed 4,000 mortgage bankers. Earlier in her career, she was a director of Emerging Markets at Fannie Mae, where she led the implementation of national strategies designed to increase homeownership among Black and Hispanic Americans.

Duckett serves on the boards of NIKE, Inc., Brex Inc., Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Sesame Workshop, National Medal of Honor Museum, Economic Club of New York, University of Houston Board of Visitors and Dean's Advisory Board for the Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business. She is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Jack and Jill of America Inc. She founded the Otis and Rosie Brown Foundation in honor of her parents to recognize and reward people who use ordinary means to empower and uplift their community in extraordinary ways. She is passionate about helping communities of color close achievement gaps in wealth creation, educational outcomes and career success.

Duckett grew up in Texas and lives in Connecticut with her husband and four children.

She holds a bachelor's degree in finance and marketing from the University of Houston and an MBA from Baylor University.

About Homer Wilkes, Ph.D.

Homer Wilkes, Ph.D., a native of Port Gibson, Mississippi, currently serves as Under Secretary for the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment, where he oversees the work of the U.S. Forest Service. He previously served as the director of Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Team, where he was responsible for overseeing the rebuilding of the Ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Oil Spill of 2010.  He has also served as the acting associate chief of USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Washington, D.C. 

Wilkes' tenure with the United States Department of Agriculture spans over 41 years. During his tenure he has served as state conservationist for Mississippi; chief financial officer for NRCS in Washington, D.C.; and as deputy state conservationist for Mississippi.

Wilkes proudly served as naval supply officer in the United States Navy Reserves from November 1984 – April 2007. 

He received his bachelor's degree, MBA, and Ph.D. in urban higher education from Jackson State University.  Also, he successfully completed the USDA Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SES CDP) through American University's Key Executive Leadership Certificate in Public Policy.

Wilkes and his wife, Kim, currently reside in Ridgeland, Miss. They have three sons: Justin, Austin, and Harrison.  He enjoys restoring classic automobiles in his spare time.

About Jackson State University

Jackson State University, founded in 1877, is a historically black, high research activity university located in Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi. Jackson State's nurturing academic environment challenges individuals to change lives through teaching, research and service. Officially designated as Mississippi's Urban University, Jackson State continues to enhance the state, nation and world through comprehensive economic development, healthcare, technological and educational initiatives. The only public university in metropolitan Jackson, Jackson State is located near downtown, with five satellite locations throughout the area. For more information, visit www.jsums.edu.

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SOURCE Jackson State University