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Ohio State Confers Two Honorary Public Service Degrees

News Type College News

“Just Mercy” author Bryan Stevenson, the spring commencement speaker, received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree. (Credit: Jodi Miller)

The Ohio State University lauded social justice, philanthropy and entrepreneurship with the presentation of two honorary degrees of Doctor of Public Service at the spring 2023 commencement.

Commencement speaker Bryan Stevenson, author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy,” received one of the degrees. A public interest attorney, Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. The organization seeks to eliminate excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerate innocent death row prisoners, confront abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aid children prosecuted as adults.

“Just Mercy” was named by Time magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014. The memoir highlights Stevenson’s efforts to overturn the wrongful conviction and death penalty sentence of Walter McMillian and was adapted as a major motion picture in 2019.

Stevenson asked the newest graduates to apply the dedication they had in obtaining their degrees while overcoming COVID-19 challenges to making the world they are entering a better, more just place.

I want us to change the world.

Bryan Stevenson
Author, “Just Mercy”

“I want us to increase the justice quotient in our communities and nations. I want us to make the world healthier,” Stevenson said. “I want us to make it safer.”

To do this, Stevenson offered four suggestions: Get proximate to those in need, change the narrative, stay hopeful and do uncomfortable things.

“Read your admission essay before you leave here,” he said. “Make sure you have the same hope leaving this university that you brought into this university. Let your guide be your hope. Believe in things you haven’t seen. Believe you can make a difference in this world.”

Ohio State graduate Keith B. Key, a real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist, received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree at spring commencement. (Credit: Jodi Miller)

The other honorary degree in public service was presented to Keith B. Key. As CEO of Keith B. Key Enterprises and Omni Management Group, Key has been involved with over $1 billion of real estate development, inclusive of residential, commercial and religious-oriented projects. Key received his degree in economics from Ohio State and is a former Buckeye football player. He contributed $1 million to support the Office of Student Life’s Keith B. Key Center for Student Leadership and Service.

Keith B. Key Enterprises is a multidimensional corporation strategically positioned to develop real estate in urban America and to form business enterprises to serve businesses and governmental bodies. As a further commitment to KBK Enterprises’ mission of “changing lives by going beyond bricks and sticks,” the KBK Foundation provides community supportive services to residents of properties either owned or managed by KBK. The Foundation’s primary focus includes quality affordable housing, economic development, social services, entrepreneurship and Section 3 training.