SALT LAKE CITY — The Rev. France Davis, a longtime civil rights leader, educator and religious leader will deliver the commencement address at the University of Utah on May 2.
The ceremony, to be held at 6 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center, marks the university's 150th campuswide commencement.
"Rev. Davis' quiet dignity, tireless advocacy for respect for all individuals and his steady message on unity make him a welcome and timely choice to address our graduates, as well as our greater campus community," said University of Utah President Ruth Watkins.
"His message is one that we could all stand to hear more often — to help us remember our humanity and to look for the best in ourselves and others."
The Rev. Davis has been pastor of Calvary Missionary Baptist Church since 1974. He also was a faculty member at the U. in communication and ethnic studies, retiring in 2014. He holds the title of adjunct associate professor emeritus.
He also serves as the chaplain to the U. football team.
Earlier, the Rev. Davis participated in the civil rights campaigns of Martin Luther King Jr. He decided to devote his life's work to ministry after taking part in the March on Washington in 1963, and the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965.
Davis also served in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic from 1966 to 1970.
He holds several academic degrees, including a bachelor's degree in rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley; a bachelor's degree in religion from Westminster College; a master's degree in mass communication from the U.; and a master's degree in ministry from Northwest Nazarene University.
Four scholarships have been established in his name — three locally and one in Miami — in honor of his lifelong devotion to education.
The Rev. Davis has also served as the secretary of the Salt Lake Ministerial Association, a member of the South Africa Preaching Team for the National Baptist Convention's Foreign Mission, and as advisor, vice-president and assistant to the dean of the Intermountain General Baptist Convention.
The Rev. Davis' life experiences include growing up in a crowded farmhouse, picking cotton in the Georgia fields and enduring interactions with Ku Klux Klan and other aspects of discrimination.Comment on this story
"It is important to be reminded of our value and of the strength and impact we can have when we come together," said Connor Morgan, president of the U.'s Associated Students.
"As we prepare for the next phase of our lives as graduates, Rev. Davis' remarks will lift and inspire us to embark on our journeys with a commitment to leave the world better than we found it."
The commencement speaker is invited by the president in consultation with students, trustees and the administration.