CSU’s 371st Commencement Features AG Raoul as Keynote Speaker, Honors Montes and Rhymefest

Chicago State University will host its 371st commencement ceremony on May 9 at the Emil & Patricia A. Jones Convocation Center.

As a beacon of academic excellence and community empowerment, CSU continues to honor distinguished individuals who have made significant contributions in their respective fields. This year, CSU will host Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul as its keynote speaker and will award Peggy A. Montes and Che “Rhymefest” Smith with the Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Kwame Raoul is Illinois’s 42nd Attorney General. As the state’s legal officer, he has championed policies that promote constitutional policing and law enforcement accountability. Attorney General Raoul has led efforts to combat gun violence by prosecuting gun trafficking cases, developing crime-gun tracing databases, defending the assault weapons ban, and successfully advancing legislation for better accountability. He is also a nationally recognized authority on consumer protection and used his position to protect students from predatory lenders and promote safety among at-risk youth on social media platforms. Born in Chicago to Haitian immigrants, Attorney General Raoul has brought a lifetime of legal experience and advocacy to the office.

Best known as the Founder and President of the Bronzeville Children’s Museum, Peggy A. Montes has devoted her life to serving fellow citizens, women, girls, and disadvantaged children. A lifelong volunteer, Montes made history as the first female Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Building Committee at the DuSable Museum of African American History.

Montes has been called on for her leadership by those in national and local politics. President Bill Clinton appointed her to the White House Women’s Conference, presided over by First Lady Hillary Clinton. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White appointed her to serve on the Illinois Center for the Book. Chicago Mayor Harold Washington appointed her to head his first Chicago Commission on Women. The late Cook County Board President, John H. Stroger, Jr. selected her to head his first Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues created in 1995. Current President Toni Preckwinkle reappointed her to this role in 2016 and she recently retired after serving for 24 years as Commissioner/Chairman. In 2022, Mayor Brandon Johnson appointed her to be a member of his newly created Black Chicago Heritage Initiative. For her lifelong dedication to her community, Montes is the recipient of multiple accolades, including the most recent Stellar Black History Honors Legacy Leadership Award and the Haitian Heritage Association Leadership Award.

Award-winning recording artist, humanitarian, actor, and community advocate, Che “Rhymefest” Smith is a recipient of two Grammy awards, an Academy award, a Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice award, and a Soul Train award for his artistry that bridges intersections between his communal, national, and global experiences. Rhymefest, Chicago rapper Common, and singer John Legend collaborated to write the Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Grammy winning song “Glory” for the 2014 movie “Selma.”

A native of Chicago’s South Side, he co-founded the nonprofit organization, Art of Culture (AOC), to serve youth artists. AOC has been instrumental in the creation of Teens in the Park (TIP) – a platform for young artists in the city to showcase their talents and connect with resources. Recently, AOC collaborated with another foundation to host a nature retreat and expanded into the African Diaspora with development of many schools. Smith continues to impact positive social change significantly among the South Side community and around the world.

Chicago State is committed to graduating the diverse leaders of tomorrow through its four colleges and nearly 60 degree and certificate programs. This year, CSU celebrates more than 580 graduating individuals earning degrees ranging from doctorates to bachelors.

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