Loyola University Chicago

New Student Convocation

Past Convocation Speakers

Wil Haygood

Wil Haygood is the author of the 2017 Loyola University Chicago First-Year Text, Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America. 

Best known as the author of the New York Times bestseller The Butler: A Witness to History, Wil Haygood is a distinguished writer whose career has spanned decades. He was an associate producer on the film adaptation of his book, The Butler, which was sparked from his Washington Post article. The movie attracted an impressive audience due to the creative writing by Haygood and performances by Academy Award winners Forest Whittaker, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Robin Williams, Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda and Oprah Winfrey. He worked many years at two of the most premiere papers in America (The Boston Globe and The Washington Post); during that time, he witnessed Nelson Mandela’s release after 27 years of imprisonment, was taken hostage by Somalian rebels, covered New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina for 33 straight days without a break, traveled with Barack Obama, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Haygood’s newest book Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America, a sweeping epic about the real-life events surrounding the heated appointment of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, remains just as impressive as his sixth book The Butler. The New York Times said, “Haygood is passionate and eloquent. [He] has done a great service by reminding us of an extraordinary man at an extraordinary moment.” Since its publication in September 2015, the book has been flying off the shelves. Not only has he received praise from many news outlets such as The Boston Globe “A vivid portrait,” The LA Times “A richly textured account,” and the New York Times Editors’ Choice, but the book has won Ohioana Book Award, the Scribes Book Award and a BCALA Literary Award. On top of that, the book remains a finalist for an NAACP Image Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and the Benjamin Hooks National Book Award. It has been named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, NPR, The Boston GlobeMinneapolis Star Tribune, Booklist and Baltimore magazine. An even further showing of Showdown’s success, renowned historian Michael Beschloss applauded the book, saying “Wil Haygood has brought us an elegant, fascinating and important tale, rendered with relentless originality. Showdown is a must read.”

Translated into over a dozen languages, The Butler: A Witness to History, is the story of Eugene Allen, the White House butler who served U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. From Allen’s time as a butler led him to become a “discreet stage hand who for three decades helped keep the show running in the most important political theatre of all.” The attention from the book led to a film, and the film garnered two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (Forest Whitaker) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (David Oyelowo). President Obama said: “I teared up thinking about not just the butlers who worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people.” President Jimmy Carter described the film as: “...one of the best dramatizations of the Civil Rights Movement I have seen.” Additionally, Oyelowo credited The Butler (and 12 Years a Slave) as changing the narrative in Hollywood for African Americans.

Haygood speaks on a variety of topics in his presentations; his long career as a reporter covering both national and global affairs makes him an authority on addressing any complex issue. For instance, audiences attending Haygood’s programs will hear a first-hand account of surviving a hostage situation, as well as the life lessons learned from the butler that served eight presidents. Haygood also shares that he is the first of his family to attend college and escape poverty, showing his determination and passion as well as inspiring others. In the end, Haygood hopes that his talks help people feel more passionate about their ideas, and learn more about race, perseverance, adversity, and the government inner workings.

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the author of the 2016 Loyola University Chicago First-Year Text, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

Mr. Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. Mr. Stevenson has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including major projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation. Mr. Stevenson is also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.

Mr. Stevenson’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize, the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union after he was nominated by United States Supreme Court Justice John Stevens, the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers, and the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights. The American Bar Association has honored Mr. Stevenson with its John Minor Public Service and Professionalism Award. In 2002, he received the Alabama State Bar Commissioners Award. In 2003, the SALT Human Rights Award was presented to Mr. Stevenson by the Society of American Law Teachers. In 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and also the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild. In 2006 New York University presented Mr. Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award. Mr. Stevenson won the Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize and has been awarded the NAACP William Robert Ming Advocacy Award, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award and the Roosevelt Institute Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom from Fear Award. In 2012, Mr. Stevenson received the American Psychiatric Association Human Rights Award, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award, and the Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award in Social Progress. Mr. Stevenson was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2014 and most recently won the Lannan Foundation Prize for Human and Civil Rights.  

Mr. Stevenson was the Strich School of Medicine commencement speaker and awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Loyola University Chicago in 2011.  Most recently, he has been featured as the commencement speaker at Wesleyan University, Williams College and Yale University.

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. A leading progressive Christian activist and cultural critic, Dr. Moss is a Jazz-influenced Pastor with a Hip Hop vibe. His creative bible-based messages have inspired young and old alike. His gift for intergenerational preaching has made Dr. Moss a popular speaker on college campuses, conferences and churches around the globe.

Dr. Moss is the author of The Gospel According to the Wiz: And Other Sermons from Cinema and Redemption in a Red Light District, and co-author of The Gospel Re-Mix: How to Reach the Hip Hop Generation and Preach! The Power and Purpose Behind Our Praise, written with his father, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. 

His sermons, articles, and poetry have appeared in various publications and blog sites including The Huffington Post, Urban Cusp, The Root, Power in the Pulpit II: America’s Most Effective Preachers, Joy To The World: Sermons From America’s Pulpit, Sound The Trumpet: Messages of Hope for Black Men, The Audacity of Faith: Christian Leaders Reflect on the Election of Barack Obama, Sojourners Magazine and The African American Pulpit Journal. 

A native of Cleveland, OH, Dr. Moss is an honors graduate of Morehouse College, Yale Divinity School, and has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Chicago Theological Seminary. Watch Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III's address at the 2015 Loyola University Chicago New Student Convocation: