TALLADEGA, AL – Talladega College will confer three honorary degrees during its 146th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 1, 2021, at 9 a.m. Honorary degree recipients for the Class of 2021 include Executive Business Management (EBM) President/CEO Essye B. Miller, who previously served as principal deputy, Department of Defense chief information officer (CIO); acclaimed poet and social justice advocate Nikki Finney; and UNCF (United Negro College Fund) Senior Vice President Lodriguez Murray. Commencement will be live-streamed at www.talladega.edu/live-events/ on Talladega’s website.

Essye B. Miller

Talladega College alumna Essye B. Miller (1985) is a seasoned executive with 35+ years of federal and Department of Defense (DoD) experience. She provides consulting and strategic advisory services focused on national defense issues related on information management, information technology, and cybersecurity. Ms. Miller is also a CIO Strategic Advisor Government Executive (SAGE) for Partnership for Public Service. During her tenure as principal deputy chief information officer, she served as primary advisor to the Secretary of Defense for information management, information technology, and information assurance. She oversaw implementation of the department’s Digital Modernization Strategy; set the strategic direction for DoD IT reform efforts in support of the National Defense Strategy; drove the Fourth Estate Network Optimization efforts; and successfully managed the Department’s $49 billion IT budget. As the DoD face to the Federal CIO Council, she influenced IT priorities and policies across government agencies. Ms. Miller was recognized by their Secretary of Defense for her Distinguished Civilian Service. She is also a 2018 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award for exceptional service an a staunch advocate for developing the next generation of technology and cybersecurity leaders.

Nikky Finney

Talladega College alumna Nikky Finney (1979) holds two endowed chairs at the University of South Carolina, the University Distinguished Professor Chair and the John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters. She is the recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets (2020), the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry the University of the South (2020), the Elizabeth O’Neil Verner Award for the Arts in South Carolina (2016), and the Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry (2004), and the PEN American Open Book Award (1996). She has authored and edited numerous publications, including Head Off & Split, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry. Her newest book, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, is a finalist for the 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her work is on display in the inaugural exhibition of the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C. She is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a place for poets of color of Appalachia. She was recently elected chancellor of the American Academy of Poets.

Lodriguez V. Murray

Lodriguez V. Murray is a tenured executive federal lobbyist based in the District of Columbia, he specializes in representing diverse constituencies to policy and political leaders. He is highly skilled at procuring federal funding for the organizations he represents, due in part to his working knowledge of federal laws, departments agencies, and programs. In addition to his ability to procure federal funds, Mr. Murray has proven capability in coordinating successful fundraising events and receptions. Key to his effectiveness as a lobbyist in his ability to develop strategic plans, analyze policies, and provide regular recommendations for programs enhancements. His solid and trusting relationships enable him to effectively represents clients of members of Congress, congressional staff and agencies. He is the youngest ever permanent member of the UNCF Leadership Team.

About Talladega College
Talladega College, Alabama’s first private historically black college, is consistently ranked among the best southeastern colleges and top HBCUs in the nation. It was founded in 1867 by two former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, and is the home of the renowned Hale Woodruff Amistad Murals.

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