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James H. Buford, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, will be the guest speaker at Fontbonne University's spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17, at 10:30 a.m. in the Dunham Student Activity Center.
Buford oversees the Urban League, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to assist African-Americans and others throughout the region in the achievement of social and economic equality.
"This is a very important step in the lives of our students," said Dennis C. Golden, Fontbonne president, "and we are honored that Mr. Buford will share his inspiring message with us. Commencement is a special moment for the graduates who have worked so hard to achieve their accomplishments and also for faculty, staff and alumni who take pride that another class has benefited from a high-quality, values-based education."
Fontbonne student Dana Dreher, a human services major, will also speak. Her aunt, Barbara Dreher, CSJ, the former chancellor of Fontbonne, will give the benediction. Sister Barbara is currently the executive director of development for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. More than 350 undergraduate and graduate students are expected to receive their degrees.
As an advocate for social and economic parity, Buford is often a vocal spokesperson on behalf of Urban League constituents. In this role he speaks to the diverse audiences, which embody the whole community - from grass roots to corporate.
On the state level, Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan appointed Buford as secretary of the St. Louis County Board of Elections in 1993 and Mayor Francis Slay appointed him to the St. Louis Public School Board in 2005. He serves on several local boards, including the St. Louis Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Grand Center Arts District, St. Louis Community College Building Corporation, St. Louis Connectcare, Fair St. Louis, St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis Zoo Commission, Chancellor's Council of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Harris Stowe State University, Heat Up St. Louis and Cool Down St. Louis, US Bank, Forest Park Hospital, St. Louis Muny Opera, Workforce Investment, Jobs for America's Graduates and Metropolitan Sewer District. He is also a former member of Fontbonne's Council of Regents.
He has received numerous awards and honors including, 2007 FOCUS "What's Right With The Region Award"; the 2006 Annie Malone Children & Family Service Center "Making A Difference Award"; the 2005 Mentor St. Louis Award; 1999 Whitney M. Young Award from the Boy Scouts; the 1997 St. Louis Gateway Classic Lifetime Achievement Award; the 1995 St. Louis Community College Distinguished Alumni Award; 1993 Lamplighter Award presented by the Public Relations Society of America-St. Louis Chapter for leadership and has enhanced the reputation and prestige of the community; and the Brotherhood-Sisterhood Award presented by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Buford holds a bachelor's degree in human services administration from Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pa., and lives in St. Louis with his wife, Susan.
Recently, the Urban League recognized Fontbonne for its commitment to diversity in its faculty and student body, for providing diagnostic evaluation and treatment services to the St. Louis community through the newly established Eardley Family Clinic for Speech, Language and Hearing, and for the university's creation of the Career Builder Program, designed to address the shortage of special education teachers in St. Louis City schools and the Special School District.