Updated as of Feb. 20, 2023 at 3:18 p.m. to include additional information from Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Jeff Stein.
Ashton Newhall ‘98 will deliver the keynote address for the class of 2023 at Elon University’s undergraduate commencement ceremonies May 19.
Newhall is a former Elon University Trustee and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2017. Newhall joined the Board of Trustees in 2009 and served until 2017. He is now a partner of the StepStone group, a global private market firm. Newhall was a sociology major who served as president of the Student Government Association. He was a member of the former Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity. Newhall was named Alumnus of the Year in 2007.
Elon senior and Student Government Association Class of 2023 President Lily Kays said the selection process for the commencement speaker changed from last year. Newhall was chosen from a list of six alumni.
“We wanted somebody who we thought could be relatable to the class of 2023, and part of that was picking somebody who either is working with college-aged people or who is relevant enough to the undergraduate career,” Kays said. “If you got somebody, for example, who was a little bit too old, they may not be able to have life advice that's relevant. Ashton is a dad, he's a husband. I think that we can predict there will be maybe a little bit of dad humor incorporated in, which is always fun and always appreciated.”
Kays said they think Newhall is excited to be this year’s speaker.
“The list of candidates that we had for graduation was really across the board for ages, gender, race, career paths,” Kays said. “Whatever he wants to talk about, I think he's someone who is definitely going to connect to some of the business students. I think that there will be students who have a connection to him and hopefully learn a lot from him.”
Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Jeff Stein works closely with the student committee and said he is thrilled to have Newhall as this year’s speaker.
“He is an incredible supporter of all things Elon,” Stein said. “He has built a career on helping others to fund their dreams. He's done a lot of really interesting work, some directly with some really unique entrepreneurs, so we're very excited.”
Stein worked closely with Newhall when Stein was secretary to the Board of Trustees. Stein said it's important for the commencement speaker to be a member of the Elon family because they have stronger connections to the students.
“I think for somebody who graduated in 1998 who has stayed so connected to the institution while making all these really entrepreneurial ventures move forward, not just his own, but others,” Stein said. “He's really achieved quite a lot and has a lot to draw on to be able to talk to students. I think some of what we want is to make sure to respond to the feedback we get from different speakers as well. I think he brings a lot that will be great for students and families.”
The 133rd Commencement Exercises will include two ceremonies for the Class of 2023 in Schar Center. The 9 a.m. diploma ceremony will be for the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education and Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. The 2:30 p.m. diploma ceremony will be for the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business and the School of Communications.
A commencement schedule can be found here.