Olympic Gymnast to Give Ashford University Graduation Keynote Address

Kerri Strug Chosen to Speak at AU's May 2009 Graduating Class

U.S. Olympic gymnastics star Kerri Strug will give the keynote address during Ashford University’s spring 2009 graduation ceremonies on Saturday, May 9. 

Strug vaulted into Olympic history with her courageous performance during the 1996 Olympic Games. She landed an unforgettable vault on an injured ankle to help the United States clinch its first Olympic gold medal in the team gymnastics competition. Her emotional performance earned her a variety of awards and accolades, from the Olympic Spirit Award to a spot on a Wheaties cereal box.

“We are honored to have someone of Ms. Strug’s stature as the speaker for our commencement ceremonies,” said Dr. Jane McAuliffe, President of Ashford University. Due to the anticipated size of the May graduating class, for the first time in the University’s history, two ceremonies will be held at the Clinton, Iowa campus – the first at 10 a.m. on May 9 and, the second, that same day, at 3 p.m.

Strug’s gut-wrenching performance during the summer games held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996, earned her fame well beyond the gymnastics world. She was featured on the covers of both Time and People magazines; she appeared on television in shows including “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Saturday Night Live,” and “Touched by an Angel,” as well as in interviews on “The Today Show,” “Dateline,” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Her rise in the gymnastics world began long before her 1996 heroics. She began competitive gymnastics at age 8, where she followed in the footsteps of her older sister and brother. Strug became the youngest American on the Olympic squad in 1992, and then went on to earn a bronze medal in the Barcelona Olympics. She was a three-time World Championship medalist and member of five World Championship teams since 1991. She also won the 1996 McDonald’s American Cup and participated in the1995 U.S. Olympic Sports Festival.

Only three months after the 1996 Olympics, Strug enrolled in college, eventually earning her B.A. degree in Communications and an M.A. degree in Sociology from Stanford University. Following graduation, she worked as a second grade teacher in San Jose, CA.

Despite her busy schedule, Strug volunteers for a variety of charitable causes. She has served as a spokesperson for the Special Olympics and the Children’s Miracle Network and has participated in projects with DARE, Pediatric AIDS, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Childhelp. The Women’s Sports Foundation presented the Reebok/Lady Foot Locker Giving Back Award to her in recognition of her community efforts. Although no longer in competitive gymnastics, she maintains involvement in the gymnastic community through work with parents, kids, and coaches throughout the country at various gymnastic camps and clubs.

An author of two books, Strug reaches out to others who may be inspired by her determination both inside and outside the gym. “Heart of Gold” targets younger readers who can learn from her ups and downs as a young gymnast. Her autobiography, “Landing on my Feet: A Diary of Dreams,” focuses on the hard work and commitment that led to her heroic Olympic performance.

Strug now lives in Washington D.C. where she has held several positions in the federal government including positions in the Office of Presidential Student Correspondence at the White House, as well as positions in the Office of General Counsel of the Treasury Department. Currently, she is a political appointee at the United States Department of Justice in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 

About Ashford University

Founded in 1918, Ashford University is a coeducational institution regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, with programs in education, business, accounting, criminal and social justice, computer animation and graphic design, and other areas.  The University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as a range of student activities and athletics, at its Clinton campus.  Online degree programs are available in education, organizational management, business administration, and psychology.  The University is known for its high quality yet highly affordable on-campus and online programs, with tuition fees among the lowest in the U.S. compared to other private institutionsIts tagline is: “Higher Education Made Affordable”SM.  For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Rodriguez, Director of Public Relations, at 858/513-9240 x2513.