Salem State University announced that their 2020 commencement ceremonies will feature three social justice activists—an author, a cartoonist, and a bank executive.

The speakers will also receive honorary doctorates from the university for their work, Salem State said in a statement Wednesday. All three commencement ceremonies will be held at the O’Keefe Complex on Canal Street in Salem.

Monique Morris, author and social justice scholar, will speak at the School of Graduate Studies Commencement on May 14. Eastern Bank CEO Robert Rivers will address the Maguire Meservey College of Health and Human Services and Bertolon School of Business Commencement May 16 at 10 a.m. and Keith Knight, cartoonist and Salem State alumnus, will speak at the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education Ceremony on the same day at 3 p.m.


Salem State chose these speakers because they matched the university’s focus on social engagement, according to the statement.

“Salem State students engage in dialogue around social justice issues as soon as they arrive on campus and throughout their careers here, so it’s fitting that our commencement speakers are social justice advocates who can emphasize the importance of making a difference and being heard,” University President John Keenan said in the statement.

According to her website, Morris focuses her books and films around social justice issues. She is the founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute which works to keep women of color out of prison and also supports those who have just finished their sentences.

Morris is also the former vice president for economic programs, advocacy and research at the NAACPand the former director of research at University of California, Berkeley’s social justice center.

Rivers holds positions in the Board of Directors of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Boston Women’s Workforce Council. He has been included in the Top 10 “Most Influential People in Boston” by Boston Magazine, and the Boston Business Journal Power 50 list for the last four years.


According to the statement, Rivers has been a leading voice among the business community to advocate for greater diversity in senior level management roles, and racial and gender equity.

Knight’s work has been featured in the Washington Post, The Boston Herald, and the New Yorker, the statement said. He’s been recognized as a 2015 History Maker by the NAACP and is currently shooting a television show for Hulu based on his life.