Deval Patrick ’82 returns to Harvard to deliver Commencement Address

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Deval Patrick with Dean Martha Minow at Harvard’s 2015 Commencement ceremony.

Deval Patrick `82, who recently concluded two terms as the 71st governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was Harvard’s 2015 commencement speaker.

As governor, Patrick was known for his strong support for public education, winning a federal Race to the Top education grant. He also implemented the Massachusetts health care reform program put into place by his predecessor, Mitt Romney ’75,  supported statewide growth of the life sciences, clean technology, and digital technology industries, and helped create the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Under his leadership, Massachusetts led the way in job growth, affordable health care, public infrastructure, government reform, veterans’ services, and marriage equality.

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An alum of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Deval Patrick '82 delivered the keynote address during the bureau's 100th Anniversary Celebration, held at HLS Nov. 8-10. Credit: Martha Stewart

A former president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Deval Patrick '82 delivered the keynote address during the bureau's 100th Anniversary Celebration, held at HLS Nov. 8-10, 2013. “I can't begin to count the number of ways that the bureau shaped my experience at Harvard Law School, not to mention my approach to the law,” he told the audience. (Watch video; go to 4:50 to hear Patrick).


Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Patrick came to Massachusetts at age 14, having won a scholarship to Milton Academy. He went on to Harvard College, the first person in his family to attend college. At HLS, he was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Last year, when the Bureau celebrated its 100th anniversary, he was the keynote speaker. (Watch video; Go to 4:50 to hear Patrick.) He has returned to Harvard Law on other occasions, including for the 3rd Celebration of Black Alumni, in September 2011 (see story and video).

Early in his career, Patrick served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Los Angeles, as a staff attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund working on voting rights and death-penalty cases, and then as a partner at the Boston law firm Hill & Barlow.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton named him assistant attorney general for civil rights, the nation’s top civil rights post. In that role, he led the Justice Department’s efforts in such areas as prosecuting hate crimes and enforcing laws on employment discrimination, fair lending, and rights for the disabled.

He went on to become the first chair of Texaco’s Equality and Fairness Task Force, and later served as a senior executive at Texaco and then at the Coca-Cola Co.

Patrick recently joined the Boston investment group, Bain Capital, as the firm’s first African American managing director.