Bradley University will extend its yearlong campus theme of Celebrating Civil Rights with the selection of mid-year commencement speaker, United States District Judge and Bradley alumnus Joe Billy McDade.
McDade will deliver his keynote address at the Mid-Year Commencement ceremony on Dec. 21 in the Renaissance Coliseum. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., with the processional beginning at 9:45 a.m.
The president’s cabinet chose McDade because of his career and personal story of overcoming adversity. McDade said he hopes to inspire students to make a difference through the promotion of justice, civic pride and respect.
“He is an exceptional speaker who always presents a stimulating and engaging message,” University Spokesperson Renee Charles said. “He was the Mid-Year Commencement speaker in 1999, and to this day, people still talk about how moving and inspiring his message was.”
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed McDade as a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois. From 1998 to 2004, McDade served as Chief Justice of the court.
Prior to his appointment as federal judge, McDade worked as an Illinois circuit judge and associate circuit judge, operated a private law practice and served as the first African American Executive Director of the Greater Peoria Legal Aid Society.
McDade earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in psychology from Bradley University. As a student, he played on the 1957 and 1959 National Invitation Tournament Championship basketball teams and received the Watonga Award, the highest award given to student athletes by Bradley.
McDade received a juris doctorate degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1963.
A lifelong advocate for civil rights and community affairs in the Central Illinois region, McDade works with organizations such as the American Red Cross Central Illinois Chapter and Tri-County Peoria Urban League.
Senior elementary education major Abi Vogel said she is pleased Bradley chose to incorporate the civil rights theme into the commencement ceremony.
“So much has happened in the past 50 years with the Civil Rights Act that seeing a Bradley alum who is fighting for justice and civil rights is exciting because of Bradley’s past with civil rights,” she said.
Vogel said she hopes to hear inspiring words and sound advice in McDade’s speech.
“I think we deal with a lot of challenges as undergraduates and with the uncertainty of the real world,” she said. “I’m hoping to hear any words of wisdom for future challenges we might face now that we are out of college.”