Skip Navigation

2017 Commencement Speaker: Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano’86

May 2, 2017

We are proud to announce that one of the most distinguished members of our family has graciously accepted an invitation to be our Commencement speaker: Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano’86, the president of Gallaudet University, the world’s only comprehensive bilingual university for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Cordano was selected by senior class officers and will address the class on May 14, 2017. A pioneer in higher education, Cordano is the first deaf, female president of Gallaudet University, an institution in Washington, D.C., that has held a distinctive place in American life since Abraham Lincoln signed its creation into law.As president of Gallaudet, she is also a leader of the values, rights, roles and brilliant contributions of the deaf community globally.

All through her career – in positions of law, health, education and public service – Cordano has demonstrated transformational leadership as a powerful and tireless advocate for access, inclusion, diversity and social justice.

Since January 2016 she has been president of Gallaudet, where her appointment was hailed as a “powerful representation of how bilingual deaf people fluent in English and American Sign Language can thrive in society.”

Cordano comes from a family of Gallaudet alumni – but she chose Beloit College to earn her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and graduated with honors as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  She later earned her law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Immediately prior to becoming Gallaudet’s president last year, Cordano was the vice president of programs for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, a non-profit community organization in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Cordano was responsible for programs across areas including early childhood, community mental health, family supportive housing, aging and caregiver services, school reform, and food access. She guided the organization through a challenging revenue environment while providing community leadership, fostering innovation and championing diversity within the workforce.

Before joining the Wilder Foundation, Cordano held several leadership roles in the health care industry, serving as the interim president for the Center of Healthcare Innovation at Allina Health, as president of the Park Nicollet Institute and vice president of Park Nicollet Health Services. Her tenure in these roles is marked by successful organizational change, innovation, community-based health initiatives, patient education and research.

Cordano also held important roles in higher education before moving into healthcare. She was the assistant dean for the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, where she was also the director of disability services.

Cordano began her career as an assistant attorney general for the State of Minnesota, working to prevent and cease consumer and charities fraud. She also served as an expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability–related laws.

She is a founding member of the Metro Deaf School, a bilingual-bicultural charter school for deaf and hard of hearing children in St. Paul, and a founding board member of Minnesota North Star Academy, a bilingual-bicultural charter high school for deaf and hard of hearing students. Her service to those schools culminated in their merger.

For her leadership with these schools and with the Minnesota Supreme Court to assure language access to the court system in Minnesota, she became one of the first recipients of the Humphrey Public Leadership Award from the Humphrey Institute for those who contribute to the common good through leadership and service.

Approximately 268 graduates will receive their diplomas during the May 14 ceremony on the lawn in front of the college’s main administration building, Middle College. For more information on the 2017 commencement ceremony, visit