World-Renowned Chef José Andrés to Deliver Commencement Address

Former GW Board Chairman W. Russell Ramsey and social justice advocate Maudine Cooper also to be honored.

March 19, 2014

Commencement Announcement GW

Left ro right: Former GW Board chair W. Russell Ramsey, chef José Andrés and social justice advocate Maudine Cooper. Mr. Andrés will give the 2014 Commencement address at GW.

Chef José Andrés will address graduates of the George Washington University at its Commencement ceremony on the National Mall on May 18. The James Beard Award winner is known to the GW community through his acclaimed restaurants, PBS television series, advocacy work and his popular class, “The World on a Plate: How Food Shapes Civilization,” where he calls on students to change the world through food. Mr. Andrés will receive an honorary doctorate of public service and deliver remarks to an estimated 25,000 graduates and guests at a ceremony like no other in the world on the National Mall.

“José Andrés brings boundless energy, wit and imagination to his work not only as a renowned chef but as a passionate champion of education, health and economic opportunity, both locally and globally,” said President Steven Knapp. “I know our graduating students will be stimulated and inspired by his reflections on his extraordinary and multi-faceted career.”

One of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, Mr. Andrés is recognized as a culinary innovator. He won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef, the highest honor for a chef in the United States. His restaurant management company, ThinkFoodGroup, owns several top Washington, D.C., restaurants including Jaleo, Zaytinya and minibar by José Andrés, along with other restaurants in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico.

Mr. Andrés has advocated for hunger and nutrition issues through his World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit inspired by a visit to Haiti that aims to feed people facing humanitarian crises across the globe. He is also a culinary ambassador for Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, helping to raise awareness of death, sickness and injury caused by toxic smoke from cooking stoves in developing countries. He is chairman emeritus of Washington’s renowned D.C. Central Kitchen and chairman of the nonprofit L.A. Kitchen. Mr. Andrés also is a vocal supporter of immigration reform, having just become a U.S. citizen last year.

A member of GW’s Urban Food Task Force, Mr. Andrés is a special adviser to Dr. Knapp on food issues. The interdisciplinary course Mr. Andrés teaches explores foods from a variety of perspectives, with students studying food as a public health issue, an industry, a science and a political instrument. He’s helped develop an integrated food curriculum at the School Without Walls in Foggy Bottom. He teaches a lecture on science and cooking at Harvard University and is the dean of Spanish studies at the International Culinary Center in New York.

“I am so humbled to be asked to give the Commencement address this year at the George Washington University and to receive the honorary doctorate of public service. I’ve been in Washington for over 20 years, and I’ve always had great respect for the university and its influence, not just in Washington, but around the country and the world," said Mr. Andrés. "This university is so special, located in the heart of our nation’s capital and close to the White House. This is where our future leaders are learning how to shape our world. For me, this is a true honor."

Joining Mr. Andrés as honorary degree recipients will be social justice advocate and retired Greater Washington Urban League executive Maudine Cooper as well as W. Russell Ramsey, B.B.A. ’81, chairman emeritus of the GW Board of Trustees, and founder, chairman and CEO of Ramsey Asset Management.

Ms. Cooper retired last year from the Greater Washington Urban League, where she served as president and CEO for nearly a quarter of a century. Previously, she served as chief of staff to former Mayor Marion Barry and held a variety of positions in D.C. government. She serves on numerous boards and commissions and has received many awards for her tireless commitment to helping minorities gain employment, education and opportunities for business ownership.

Mr. Ramsey, who was recently tapped to lead DC2024’s effort to bring the Summer Olympics to Washington, stepped down from the Board of Trustees in 2013 after 15 years of service to GW, including six years as chairman. His philanthropic endeavors and accomplishments include establishing the Ramsey Student Investment Fund, and he also oversaw the presidential search committee that selected Dr. Knapp as president, the creation of the 20-year Foggy Bottom campus plan and the development of the strategic plan.

In addition to the university's main Commencement celebrations on the National Mall, GW schools and colleges will hold individual ceremonies from May 15 to 18 to honor undergraduate, graduate, law and medical students. Honored speakers at selected school ceremonies include:

• Bruce Sewell, J.D. ’86, general counsel and senior vice president of legal and government affairs at Apple, at the Law School;

• David Shambaugh, B.A. '78, professor of political science and international affairs, at the Elliott School of International Affairs;

• Kurt Newman, president and chief executive officer at Children’s National Medical Center, at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences; and

• Maureen P. McCausland, president and chief nursing officer at MedStar Health, at the School of Nursing.

Previous GW Commencement speakers include award-winning actress and alumna Kerry Washington, B.A. '98; “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams; then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; First Lady Michelle Obama; Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama; former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; and then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.