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Michael Bloomberg to speak at Harvard commencement

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press/File 2013

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Michael R. Bloomberg, a Medford native who rose to become a business titan and mayor of New York City, has been selected to deliver the main address at Harvard’s commencement ceremonies in May, the university announced Wednesday.

The Harvard Business School alumnus and billionaire recently ended his 12-year tenure as mayor. He founded the financial data and media company Bloomberg LP three decades ago and is now worth an estimated $33 billion and ranked by Forbes as the 16th richest person in the world.

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“Mike Bloomberg’s career represents a rare blend of public leadership, private-sector entrepreneurship, and powerful philanthropic engagement,” Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, said in a statement. “He has led one of the world’s great cities, built one of the nation’s most influential information services, and generously committed his attention and resources to worthy causes.’’

One of more than 100 billionaires who have pledged to give at least half of their wealth to charity, Bloomberg has donated billions to support public health, the environment, government innovation, the arts, education, and other causes.

Harvard’s 363d commencement is May 29. Bloomberg will speak at afternoon ceremonies in the Tercentenary Theatre of Harvard Yard, campus officials said.

“Harvard helped shape the course of my life, just as it has helped shape the course of the world for centuries,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “It’s an honor to be invited to speak at commencement.

Harvard regularly attracts big-name speakers. Last year, it was entertainer Oprah Winfrey. Other recent speakers include journalist Fareed Zakaria; Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; retired US Supreme Court Justice David Souter; former US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu; and “Harry Potter” series author J.K. Rowling.

Born at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Bloomberg spent the first two years of his life in Allston before moving with his family to Brookline and then to Medford, where he lived until college. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 and his MBA from Harvard in 1966.

That year, he landed an entry-level job at the Wall Street investment banking house Salomon Brothers and rose to become a general partner at the company before it was sold in 1981 and he was laid off.

Using a $10 million severance, he funded a startup that became Bloomberg LP, which now employs about 13,000 people worldwide and boasts more than 300,000 financial news and information service subscribers.

Bloomberg has supported both his alma maters. He gave more than $1 billion to Johns Hopkins, which named its School of Public Health after him. In 1996, he gave Harvard $3 million to establish the William Henry Bloomberg Professorship in honor of his late father. He supported Harvard Business School’s construction of the Bloomberg Center, an addition to the Baker Library built several years ago and also named for his father.

Harvard commencement speakers are chosen by a committee of university leaders and alumni association members.

“Mike Bloomberg is a prime example of someone who has done well and done good,” Harvard Alumni Association president Catherine A. Gellert said in a statement.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@
globe.com
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