Michael Bloomberg to speak at Spring Commencement

Monday, March 14, 2016 - 3:22am

The man named an “Honorary Knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” by Queen Elizabeth the II in 2014 may also be honored at this year’s University of Michigan Spring Commencement ceremony.

Bloomberg L.P. founder Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor, will be the spring commencement speaker and has been recommended as the recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Laws. The Board of Regents will vote on the proposal at their monthly meeting Thursday.

University President Mark Schlissel and the Honorary Degree Committee will present the recommendation on Thursday before the vote.

“Mr. Bloomberg … you are a role model for civic leaders, students, and others who aspire to be agents of change,” the proposal reads. “The University of Michigan celebrates your storied career and contributions to business, philanthropy, and effective government, and is proud to present to you the honorary degree, Doctor of Laws.”  

Bloomberg held three consecutive terms in office from 2002 to 2013 as mayor, and he is well-known in the world of business, public health and environmental reform. Up until last week, speculation was high that he may run as an independent candidate for president, until he announced in a Bloomberg View post on March 7 that he wouldn’t pursue a campaign.

He currently works as the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change in the United Nations and serves as president of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group — a network including over 80 cities, 550 million people and one quarter of the global economy, according to their website. He was also committed to the environment during his time as mayor, reducing New York City’s carbon footprint by 19 percent and opening over 800 acres of outdoor space, including new parks and greenways.

Bloomberg is perhaps most well-known for his business endeavors. In 1981, he founded Bloomberg L.P., a software, data and media company with more than 16,000 employees in 192 locations worldwide. After graduating from Harvard Business School, he took the business world by storm, launching products such as the Bloomberg Terminal, which allows users to monitor and analyze real-time financial data.

In public office, fiscal readiness was also a focus — though the city was $4 billion in debt when he entered office, New York had a $4.4 million in budget surplus after his tenure, according to the New York Times.

As a mayor, he also laid the groundwork for the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization he currently co-chairs that advocates for gun control policies such as universal background checks. 

New York’s crime rate was another hallmark of his tenure, decreasing by 32 percent while he was in office; however, the “stop and frisk policies” that were implemented during his tenure were received with controversy. The New York Police Department policy allowed officers to question pedestrians and search them if they had “reasonable suspicion” that the individual who was stopped was about to engage in illegal activities.

In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the policy was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause after it was discovered that the law disproportionately targeted Blacks and Hispanics. The Washington Post reported that 53 percent of Blacks and 31 percent of Hispanics were stopped, compared to 10 percent of whites.

Bloomberg will follow a varied line of previous commencement speakers in recent years, including Zingerman’s co-founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig last year, CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta in 2012 and President Barack Obama in 2010.

Along with Bloomberg, the regents will also vote on honorary degrees for Michael Brown, CEO and co-founder of City Year, Mary-Claire King, professor of Human Genetics at University of Seattle, Michele Oka Doner, visual artist and University alum, and Beverly Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College and University alum.