Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, to Deliver Commencement Address at AU Washington College of Law

AUWCL graduates, families, and friends can find more information about the ceremony at

Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson. Photo Credit: Michael Collopy

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2017 – American University Washington College of Law welcomes Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), as its 2017 Commencement speaker. The law school's commencement will be held Sunday, May 21, 2017, at 1 p.m. at American University's Bender Arena (4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW). In the spring 2017 class, 346 students will graduate with a Juris Doctor (JD), 47 with a Master of Laws (LL.M.), and 2 with a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD).

As part of the ceremony, Stevenson will be presented with an honorary doctor of laws.

“We are honored to have Bryan Stevenson join us to celebrate our 2017 graduates,” said Dean Camille Nelson. “His outstanding work in the areas of social justice and human rights make him an excellent role model for us all. We are, therefore, delighted to present him with the honorary doctorate.” 

A 1985 graduate of Harvard, with both a master's in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government and a JD from the School of Law, Stevenson joined the clinical faculty at New York University School of Law in 1998.

Stevenson has been representing capital defendants and death row prisoners in the Deep South since 1985, when he was a staff attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 1989, he has been executive director of the EJI, a private, nonprofit law organization he founded that focuses on social justice and human rights in the context of criminal justice reform in the United States. EJI litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevenson's work has won him national acclaim, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award Prize (1995), the ACLU National Medal of Liberty (1991), and the Olaf Palme Prize for International Human Rights (2000). In 1996, he was named the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers.

Stevenson has published several widely disseminated manuals on capital litigation and written extensively on criminal justice, capital punishment, and civil rights issues. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, which won the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Best Non-Fiction, the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014.


In 1896, American University Washington College of Law became the first law school in the country founded by women. More than 120 years since its founding, this law school community is grounded in the values of equality, diversity, and intellectual rigor. The law school's nationally and internationally recognized programs (in clinical legal education, trial advocacy, international law, and intellectual property to name a few) and dedicated faculty provide its JD, LL.M., and SJD students with the critical skills and values to have an immediate impact as students and as graduates, in Washington, DC and around the world. For more information, visit


CONTACT: Franki Fitterer
Director, Public Relations
Washington College of Law
office: (202) 274-4279
cell: (202) 321-6183