Class of 2019 Speakers

This afternoon, Columbia College and SEAS announced their Class Day speakers, Brandon Victor Dixon and Shawn Edwards, who will address graduating seniors at their college’s commencements. 

Broadway star Brandon Victor Dixon (’03) will speak at CC Class Day. Known for his role as Aaron Burr (sir) in Hamilton, Dixon has enjoyed a remarkable career as a producer, actor, and creative. His achievements include receiving a scholarship to attend Oxford’s British Academy of Dramatic Acting, being cast as Adult Simba in The Lion King‘s national tour, receiving the I.A.L. Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts, Tony and Drama Desk production awards for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Tony and Grammy Nominations for his performance in The Color Purple and Motown The Musical, respectively.

Bloomberg CTO Shawn Edwards (BS’90, MS’95) will speak to Columbia Engineering students at their Class Day. Responsible for Bloomberg’s global technology strategy, Edwards has involvement across the enterprise and industry. In addition to technology, Edwards is passionate about education. He is the Vice Chair of the Board of Visitors at Columbia Engineering, a member of the Advisory Council for the Columbia Data Science Institute, and a member of Columbia’s working group for NYC Women in Tech (NYC WIT), which, according to the press release, is a “city-wide initiative focused on building up the pipeline of talented female engineers for leadership positions in academia and industry.”

With two exciting speakers secured, both schools are in for a treat! CC Class Day is on Tuesday, May 21st, and SEAS is on Monday, May 20th. Congrats seniors! Find the entire press releases below


” NEW YORK—April 12, 2019—Columbia College is pleased to announce that actor and producer Brandon Victor Dixon CC’03 will deliver the keynote address for its 2019 Class Day ceremony. The annual event — held this year on the South Lawn on Tuesday, May 21 — honors graduating College seniors. The Class Day speaker is selected annually by the College, based on a list of recommendations from the Senior Class Council.
Dixon has performed numerous starring roles in theater and television, including playing Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton CC 1778’s law-partner-turned-rival, in Hamilton: The Musical’s Broadway production.
“We are so glad that Brandon Victor Dixon has accepted our invitation to speak to the graduating class of 2019,” said James J. Valentini, dean of Columbia College and vice president for undergraduate education. “From the great white way to the silver screen, Brandon’s journey reflects an inspiring example to all of our students about the power of using your voice and we are excited to welcome him back to campus for Class Day.”
As a high school student, Dixon — who is originally from Gaithersburg, MD — won a scholarship to attend Oxford University’s British Academy of Dramatic Acting and was a U.S. Presidential Scholar semifinalist. The first in his father’s family to attend college and a first-generation Jamaican American, he majored in drama and theater arts at the College before landing the role of Adult Simba in The Lion King’s national tour at age 21, interrupting his senior year at Columbia. He completed his degree in 2007 and the same
year was awarded the I.A.L. Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts for his accomplishments.
Dixon was nominated for a Tony for his performance in The Color Purple and earned a Grammy nomination for his performance in Motown The Musical, in which he played Motown founder Berry Gordy. In 2014 he won both a Tony and a Drama Desk for his role producing Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Along with performing on and off-Broadway, Dixon has also performed in London’s West End and recently appeared in the live television versions of RENT and Jesus Christ Superstar. He currently has a recurring role as an attorney in the episodic drama POWER on the STARZ network ande will co-host the announcement of the 2019 Tony Awards nominees on Tuesday, April 30.
In addition to his work as a performer, Dixon co-founded WalkRunFly, a multimedia production company whose releases have included the Tony Award-winning revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris, Of Mice and Men with James Franco, and Moulin Rouge! The Musical. In 2018, he created a campaign called #WeAre for music-related collaboration in support of activist causes. Among its major beneficiaries is Young New Yorkers, an organization that aims to help rehabilitate juvenile first-time offenders.
“We believe that Brandon Victor Dixon is the perfect Class Day speaker for the Class of 2019, a class renowned for its energy and determination,” said Senior Class President Mina Mahmood CC’19. “He is an artist and an activist; he is courageous and exceptionally talented. He is an excellent example of someone using their platform, access and power to speak up for those who cannot.” “


“NEW YORK—April 12, 2019—Shawn Edwards, Bloomberg’s Chief Technology Officer and an alumnus of Columbia Engineering with BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering, will give the keynote address to students at Class Day, the engineering school-specific graduation ceremony at Columbia University, on Monday, May 20, 2019.
As CTO, Edwards is responsible for setting Bloomberg’s global technology strategy and works with the company’s global Engineering team to develop Bloomberg’s leading market data, analytics, news, and community products. His research teams lead the investigation and investment in emerging technologies that are of strategic importance to the company, in addition to architecting strategic technical solutions—including enhancements to the company’s core business, the Bloomberg Terminal.
“As an alum of SEAS, I’m honored to be invited to speak to this year’s graduates,” said Edwards. “This is an incredibly talented and diverse set of students that are ready to take on big challenges. I’m eager to share my enthusiasm with the students as they mark this important chapter in their lives.”
Edwards advances Bloomberg’s engagement with academia, including research fellowships, grants, and sponsorships, as well as the company’s engagement with the open source and developer communities. He is the current Vice Chair of the Board of Visitors at Columbia Engineering, a member of the Advisory Council for the Columbia Data Science Institute, and a member of Columbia’s working group for NYC Women in Tech (NYC WIT), a city-wide initiative focused on building up the pipeline of talented female engineers for leadership positions in academia and industry. The company’s own Bloomberg Women in Technology (BWIT) organization has more than 1,000 members—both women and their allies—across chapters in New York, London, Princeton, and San Francisco.
“Shawn is a role model for our students. His personal trajectory illustrates how his foundation in engineering can have a transformative impact on many industry sectors. Through his leadership and service, he has mentored and propelled talent in a field rapidly evolving due to technological advancements and has advanced our shared goals in improving education, research, and excellence in engineering and technology across New York City and beyond,” said Mary C. Boyce, Dean of Engineering and Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor at Columbia. “We appreciate Shawn’s remarkable commitment to Columbia Engineering and are excited to have him share his journey and thoughts with our graduating students as our Class Day speaker.”
Before joining Bloomberg, Edwards worked at Bear Stearns & Co. as managing director of the fixed income trading group and also held positions at Mentor Graphics and IBM. He has been named one of the financial industry’s top ten technology leaders by Institutional Investor.
About Columbia Engineering Columbia Engineering, based in New York City, is one of the top engineering schools in the U.S. and one of the oldest in the nation. Also known as The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School expands knowledge and advances technology through the pioneering research of its more than 220 faculty, while educating undergraduate and graduate students in a collaborative environment to become leaders informed by a firm foundation in engineering. The School’s faculty are at the center of the University’s cross-disciplinary research, contributing to the Data Science Institute, Earth Institute, Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Precision Medicine Initiative, and the Columbia Nano Initiative. Guided by its strategic vision, “Columbia Engineering for Humanity,” the School aims to translate ideas into innovations that foster a sustainable, healthy, secure, connected, and creative humanity.”