Updated as of 4:09 p.m. on May 16 to include video interview with Ackermann.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated who made the final decision on the commencement speaker and timeline of this change. Elon News Network regrets this error.

Grace Ackermann was driving to Boston for apartment hunting when she got the call from Elon University President Connie Book saying that she would be the student commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2024.

“I got a phone call from a Burlington number that I sent to voicemail, and when I finally heard it, I was like, ‘Whoa, the President of Elon just called me’ — which was so awesome, and I was so honored when she gave me the news,” Ackermann said.  

In the past, the speaker has always been the student body president, but in February 2024, the Student Government Association changed the requirements. This new change allowed for all seniors to apply for the speaker position — granting the final decision to President Book. 

Assistant Vice President for Student Life, Megan Noltemeyer, was a staff member chosen to be on the selection committee where she assisted in narrowing down candidates for the speaker role. 

“This exciting new aspect of Elon’s Commencement generated significant interest from many talented members of the Class of 2024,” Noltemeyer said.

With graduation on May 24, Ackermann said she is excited for the opportunity to speak for the class of 2024. Ackermann is graduating with a degree in human service studies with plans to continue her education in graduate school at Boston College. Over her four years, she has become an active member of Elon and the surrounding community: she is a Periclean Scholar; admissions tour guide; director of Campus Kitchen for Elon volunteers; a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority and Students for Peace and Social Justice Club; worked at a Detox and Sober Living Community; and volunteered with local a boys and girls club — as well as family abuse services.

“A lot of my involvement at Elon connects with how to engage ethically within the community and create sustainable partnerships,” Ackermann said. “I have engaged in a lot on campus that allows me to apply what I have learned in the classroom to give back to the community.”

Ackermann chose to include the impact her involvement on campus has had on her over the past four years, making her speech stand out. 

“Grace’s unique approach to sharing her appreciation for her time at Elon and the impact it has had on her and her classmates as well as her broad involvement on campus shone through in her proposed remarks,” Noltemyer said. 

Former SGA President and senior, Britt Mobley, was a part of the student selection committee involved in reviewing the speeches. He was excited that Ackermann was chosen to give the speech this year. 

“Grace is a humble, kind, and sincere person,” Mobley said. “She’s one of those people that folks always just have something kind to say.”

Ackermann said she is extremely grateful for all that Elon has given her and wanted to give thanks to everyone by applying to be the student commencement speaker. After a competitive process, she was offered the role.

“I have had a lot of time to self reflect and learn about my strengths, what I have to offer and I’ve learned a lot about how to do that with other people and how to learn from others as well,” Ackermann said. “That's why I wanted to give this speech, because I have learned so much from this community and been impressed by my peers every day.”

The 134th Commencement for the class of 2024 will be Friday, May 24, with ceremonies being held in the Schar Center.