Randall L. Kennedy, a leading scholar on race issues and the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, will deliver the Northeastern School of Law’s commencement address on May 23 at Matthews Arena.
Northeastern University Provost Stephen W. Director and Law School Dean Jeremy Paul will preside over the ceremony, which will honor more than 200 graduating students in the company of their friends and families.
“When Dean Paul asked me about my interest in giving the commencement address I told him I would be honored to do it,” Kennedy said. “This is a huge day not only for the students who are graduating but also for the people who have supported them. And I feel a deep sense of responsibility and honor in crafting an address for all of them.”
Kennedy joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1984 and teaches courses in contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations. He is not only a leading commenter on issues of race and crime but also interracial marriage, interracial adoption, constitutional law, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Professor Kennedy is the rare scholar whose work speaks powerfully to a general audience, while commanding wide and deep respect throughout the legal academy,” Paul said. “He has earned admiration by taking a fearless approach to some of the most challenging issues of our day, particularly those involving race and intimate family relations.”
Prior to his career in academia, Kennedy served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the court’s first African-American justice, from 1983 to 1984.
Kennedy was elevated to national prominence in 1997 with the publication of his first book Race, Crime, and the Law. In the book, he skillfully explores how the African-American community suffers not only from discriminatory practices within the criminal justice system but also from under enforcement that leads to a higher rate of crime being committed against African-Americans.
The book won the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights book award in 1998. The award is presented annually to a book that devotedly reflects Kennedy’s passion to help the poor and powerless and assure a fair chance for all young people.
Kennedy was born in South Carolina. He received a bachelor of arts from Princeton University in 1977, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University from 1977 to 1979, and earned his juris doctor from Yale Law School in 1982.
Kennedy joins a group of scholars, advocates, and thought leaders who have addressed past Northeastern law school graduates, including Jacqueline A. Berrien, chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy; Stephen Breyer, associate justice of the Supreme Court; and civil rights leader Julius Chambers.