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ODU to Hold Three Commencement Ceremonies Over Two Days

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a local business leader and a Fortune 500 executive will be the speakers for Old Dominion University's 116th commencement exercises on Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5.

For the first time, commencement is being split into three ceremonies over two days, with the College of Arts and Letters - the largest graduating class - conducting its exercises at 7 p.m. Friday, May 4. On Saturday, May 5, there will be a 9 a.m. commencement for graduates of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Health Sciences and the College of Sciences. A 2 p.m. commencement will be held on Saturday for graduates of the Darden College of Education and the College of Business and Public Administration.

All of the ceremonies will take place at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

"This schedule change comes as a result of the growth of the university and the Office of University Events' ongoing efforts to improve the commencement experience," said ODU Provost Carol Simpson. "We believe the new format will provide students better opportunities to share their special day with more of their loved ones and faculty."

Les Payne, a reporter and former columnist for Newsday, will speak to graduates of the College of Arts and Letters. Payne won a Pulitzer for his work on a 33-part Newsday series on the international flow of heroin from the poppy fields of Turkey into the veins of drug addicts in New York City. Currently the David Laventhol Chair at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Payne has reported extensively from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and the United Nations during his career.

Payne, who is finishing a biography of Malcolm X, is an author, editor and social critic who gives lectures frequently about social and political issues, the future of journalism and liberation movements in the United States and southern Africa.

He was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame and, as a founder and the fourth president of the NABJ, he has worked diligently to improve media fairness and employment practices and to expand the coverage of black and Third World communities.

Wendy Bahr, senior vice president of Global and Strategic Partners for the Worldwide Partner Organization for Cisco, will address graduates of the College of Sciences, College of Health Sciences and Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

An ODU graduate with a bachelor's degree in communication, Bahr is responsible for driving growth and solutions development through Cisco's largest and most strategic systems integrator, service provider and ecosystem partners.

She has spent more than 20 years in sales and technology. Prior to joining Cisco, Bahr was with Verizon for more than 10 years. In her last role there she was the director of enterprise sales, leading a sales and engineering team focused on Fortune 500 companies and the public sector.

Bahr is a member of the Women's Action Network at Cisco and a former member of the Gender Diversity Operations Committee. She is a coach and mentor for Cisco's Women Unlimited program, while also personally mentoring more than a dozen Cisco employees.

Jack J. Ross, president and chief operating officer with Dominion Enterprises, will give the commencement address to graduates of the College of Business and Public Administration and Darden College of Education.

Ross began working for Landmark Communications Inc. in 1984 as an advertising sales representative with The Virginian-Pilot. In 1996, he was promoted to vice president/general manager of The Employment Guide, with responsibilities for building the organization and opening operations in the top 50 markets in the country. This resulted in the creation of the first nationwide brand for print classified employment listings covering local markets.

In January 2009, Ross was named to his current position as president and COO of Dominion Enterprises and Landmark Media Enterprises, LLC, and in June 2010 he took over the responsibility for Landmark's two television stations, three major daily newspapers and 42 community newspapers.

Ross holds a bachelor's degree in business from ODU. A resident of Virginia Beach, he is active in various civic endeavors.

For more information about ODU's 116th commencement exercises, visit the commencement website at http://www.odu.edu/ao/commencement/graduates/index.shtml.