From NPR to Chiles: Ari Shapiro to speak at commencement for class of ‘23

Shapiro is the rotating host of NPR’s “All Things Considered” and former White House Correspondent during the Obama administration

By Brie Haro | April 7, 2023 5:33pm
Ari Shapiro, 2015. Stephen Voss/NPR.

Ari Shapiro, rotating host of NPR’s “All Things Considered”, will be this year’s commencement speaker for the class of ‘23. Shapiro, along with U.S. Senator in Vermont 1975-2023, Patrick J. Leahy, will be two out of the seven to receive honorary doctorates. 

“Graduating seniors, most of whom started college in the fall of 2019, persevered through mask-wearing and online learning over pandemic-affected stretches of 2020 and 2021 to earn degrees and a celebratory moment on the 2023 commencement stage,” an email from the University's Office of Public Affairs said.

Commencement will be held at the Chiles Center and begins with the School of Nursing & Health Innovations Pinning Ceremony at 11:15 a.m. on May 6. The Commissioning Ceremony for the University’s Joint Air Force and Army ROTC will follow shortly after at 1:45 p.m. 

On May 7, Shapiro will give his speech for both Commencement I and II.  Commencement I — beginning at 10:00 a.m. — consists of students from the School of Nursing and Health Innovations, Donald P. Shiley School of Engineering and School of Education. Commencement II — beginning at 3:00 p.m. — consists of students in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Business. 

Abott Jeremy Driscoll — the 12th abbot of Mount Angel Abbey, selected by the community in 2016 — will be awarded the Christus Magister Medal, the University’s highest honor. 

“Ordained a priest in 1981, Abbot Jeremy has taught theology at Mount Angel Seminary and at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome,” an email from UP’s Office of Public Affairs said. “He serves on various Vatican commissions, conducts conferences and retreats and continues to write and publish.”

This year’s speaker is no stranger to The Bluff since his mother Elayne Shapiro, now an associate professor emerita, taught communication studies at UP and brought him to the University to speak in 2011

Shapiro — the first person before the age of 30 to be promoted to a correspondent position at NPR — spoke to students about his experience as NPR’s White House Correspondent during the Obama administration. Before reporting on the White House, Shapiro served as NPR's International Correspondent in London.

“Filing stories from five continents... he has reported from above the Arctic Circle and aboard Air Force One and has covered wars in Iraq, Ukraine and Israel” an email from the University's Office of Public Affairs said.

In addition to his work with NPR, Shapiro wrote a New York Times best-selling book titled “The Best Strangers in the World” where he documents stories from Syrian refugees and those fighting for social justice during his work on Air Force One under the Obama administration.

UP will also give Michael E. Nelson, chief executive officer of the Walter E. Nelson Company and member of UP’s Board of Regents, an honorary degree in Humane Letters. 

“An esteemed Portland businessman and member of the University of Portland Board of Regents, Nelson is chief executive officer of the Walter E. Nelson Company, the largest family-owned janitorial, chemical and paper distributor in the Pacific Northwest,” an email from UP’s Office of Public Affairs said. 

To honor the company founder, the University named the Facility Services building on Franz River Campus after Walter E. Nelson.

Nelson and Shapiro won’t be the only ones awarded an honorary degree. There are four other individuals that will receive honorary degrees in Public Service. 

Kupiri Ackerman-Barger

Ackernman-Barger is the associate dean for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and a clinical professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at University of California, Davis and will be giving the address at the School of Nursing and Health Innovations Pinning Ceremony.

“As a national consultant and speaker, Dr. Ackerman-Barger advocates for underserved and underrepresented groups in health professions. Her interdisciplinary work has been recognized through American Academy of Nurses fellowships, and the 2019 UC Davis Charles P. Nash Award,” an email from the University's Office of Public Affairs said. 

Patrick J. Leahy 

Leahy served as a United States Senator in Vermont from 1975 through his retirement in 2023 and as the U.S. Senate president pro tempore from 2012 to 2015 and from 2021 to 2023. His 48-year tenure is the third-longest in U.S. Senate history.

“A member of the Democratic Party, he chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee, casting more than 17,000 votes and serving alongside more than 400 senators,” an email from UP’s Office of Public Affairs said. 

Steve Moore

Moore has served as the vice president for campus life at Baylor University and Seattle Pacific University while teaching world religions and ethics. He has also had experience as senior vice president at Asbury Theological Seminary. 

Additionally, Moore has been the Chief Executive Officer for more than 16 years for the Emeritus of the M.J. Murdock Trust. 

Moe O’Connor 

O’Connor has left a lasting impact on UP’s athletics department having served as the University of Portland’s first women’s athletic director from 1979-1986. Since then, the Pilots women’s programs earned national recognition within Division I athletics in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  

The ROTC Commissioning Address will be given by Lieutenant General Xavier T. Brunson of the United States Army, I Corps —  Commanding General at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.  

“Commissioned in 1990, Lt. Gen. Brunson previously served as deputy commanding general of I Corps, commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division, chief of staff of XVIII Airborne Corps and deputy commanding general—operations of the 10th Mountain Division,” an email from the University's Office of Public Affairs said. 

University of Portland President, Robert Kelly expressed his excitement about this year's commencement ceremonies. 

“The 2023 class of University of Portland Commencement Honorees is truly extraordinary,” Kelly said in an email. “These leaders and trailblazers in journalism, ministry, scholarship, health care, public service and sport embody the values that the University strives to instill in its graduates. It is UP’s great honor to confer honorary degrees upon them and to henceforth consider them proud alumni of our institution.”

Brie Haro is the Editor-in-Chief of The Beacon. She can be reached at