Deval Patrick, H’17


Deval Patrick looking at the camera. There are books on shelves in the background.

2022 Commencement Speaker

Deval Patrick is co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and was the 71st governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, serving from 2007-15. 

Raised by a single mother on the South Side of Chicago, Patrick came to Massachusetts at age 14 when he earned a scholarship to Milton Academy, graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, clerked for a federal appellate judge, and then launched a career as an attorney and a business executive, becoming partner at two Boston law firms, and a senior executive at two Fortune 50 companies.

President Bill Clinton appointed Patrick to the nation's top civil rights post, assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Justice, in 1994. Among other activities during his tenure, Patrick led a sweeping investigation of arsons at predominately Black churches throughout the South. Until the probe into 9/11, it was the largest federal criminal investigation in U.S. history.

In his first bid for public office, Patrick was elected governor of Massachusetts. At the State House, he oversaw the expansion of affordable health care to more than 98% of the Commonwealth's residents, launched initiatives stimulating clean energy and biotechnology, won a national Race to the Top grant, and steered Massachusetts from a recession to a 25-year high in employment.

He is the author of the books "A Reason to Believe: Lessons From an Improbable Life" (2011) and "Faith in the Dream: A Call to the Nation to Reclaim American Values" (2012).

Patrick serves as founding chair of the advisory board for Our Generation Speaks, an innovative fellowship program that, in partnership with Brandeis University and MassChallenge, helps young Israeli and Palestinian leaders start sustainable ventures that can create jobs, build bridges, and nurture hope in their communities.

Brandeis awarded Patrick its highest form of recognition, an honorary degree, in 2017.

In 2021, Patrick co-chaired the Future of Tech Commission, a bipartisan group of civic leaders working to develop national policy recommendations related to such technology issues as consumer privacy, the reduction of mis- and disinformation, and cybersecurity. That same year, Brandeis International Business School recognized Patrick with the Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship, for his embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit.