Jackie Joyner-Kersee to Give Ashford University Commencement Address

Olympic gold medalist chosen to deliver commencement address

Widely regarded as “the world's greatest female athlete of the 20th century,” Jackie Joyner-Kersee, six-time Olympic gold medalist, motivational speaker and founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, has been chosen to deliver the keynote address during Ashford University’s fall commencement ceremony. More than 1,200 students from across the United States and from several foreign countries, along with more than 5,000 guests are expected to attend the 1 p.m. ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 14 at the i wireless Center in Moline, IL.

Sunday’s ceremony will conclude a weekend filled with other activities for Ashford graduates and their guests.

By the conclusion of her career in the heptathlon and long jump events, Joyner-Kersee had amassed six Olympic medals at four different Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996) and four world champion titles. She was the first woman in history to earn more than 7,000 points in the heptathlon, and today, more than 20 years later, she still holds the world heptathlon record of 7,291 points. She continues to hold the Olympic and national records in the long jump and her 1994 performance in the long jump remains the second longest in history. Joyner-Kersee attended college at UCLA and starred in both track and field and women's basketball from 1980 to 1985. A four-year starter on the Bruins' basketball team, she is still listed among the school's career leaders in scoring average, rebounding and assists.

Born in 1962 in East St. Louis, IL, the athlete came from very modest beginnings. To this day, she is still humble and loves to give back to the community despite having been dubbed “The Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century” by Sports Illustrated.

Less well known, however, are her tireless efforts and remarkable accomplishments off the field as a philanthropist and an advocate for children’s education, health issues (in particular asthma from which she has suffered throughout her life), racial equality, social reform and women’s rights. Never one to be classified as merely an athlete, Joyner-Kersee said, “I strive to be a Jackie of all trades."

Joyner-Kersee has received many prestigious awards, including the St. Louis Ambassadors Sportswoman of the Year, Sporting News Athlete of the Year Award (the first woman to receive either of these awards), the Sullivan Award, and the Jesse Owens Memorial Award two years in a row. On Dec. 3, 2004, she was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame. The March 2002 issue of Ebony included her on its list of the Top 10 Greatest African-American Women Athletes. 

Tickets will not be issued for Ashford’s commencement ceremony. Seating in the iWireless arena is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Ashford’s other commencement events get underway on Saturday, Oct. 13 at 1 p.m. with a masters hooding ceremony in Kehl Arena in the Durgin Education Center on Ashford’s Clinton, Iowa campus. Students will be recognized for their achievements as well as be hooded by the dean or executive dean of their college.

At 3:30 p.m., also in Kehl Arena, students who have earned University honors or have been inducted into an honor society have been invited to a reception recognizing their accomplishments.

From 2-7:30 p.m., graduates and current students alike will enjoy food, games and socializing at the first ever Ashford Commencement Celebration at Ashford University Field. Events include games, a faculty “meet and greet,” a barbecue, photo opportunities with Ashford University President Dr. Elizabeth Tice, Provost Rebecca Wardlow and Champ, Ashford’s St. Bernard mascot, and a fireworks show. The celebration is open to the public.


About Ashford University

Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. Ashford University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association (www.ncahlc.org). The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Rodriguez, associate vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.