Commencement Ceremony at Allegheny College Celebrates the Class of 2023 and Two Distinguished Leaders

Today, Allegheny College honored 363 graduating students and presented honorary degrees to two distinguished leaders at Commencement ceremonies held on Bicentennial Plaza in the shadow of historic Bentley Hall.

Honorary doctorates of humane letters were conferred on Andre M. Perry — a 1993 Allegheny graduate, scholar-in-residence at American University, and professor of the practice of economics at Washington University— and Kim Tillotson Fleming — former Allegheny College trustee, parent, and vice-chair at Baird.

Andre M. Perry, Allegheny Class of 1993, is a Senior Fellow at Brookings Metro, a scholar-in-residence at American University, and a professor of practice of economics at Washington University. He is a nationally known and respected commentator on race, structural inequality, and education. In 2020, Perry released the book “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in Black Cities,” and in 2018 authored the Brookings Institution report “The Devaluation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods.” Perry’s scholarship at Brookings has analyzed Black-majority cities and institutions in America, focusing on valuable assets worthy of increased investment.

Perry’s pioneering work on asset devaluation has made him a go-to researcher for policymakers, community development professionals, civil rights groups, and media outlets. He is a regular commentator on MSNBC and has bylines in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Times. He has also appeared on HBO, CNN, NPR, and PBS.

Perry was the founding dean of the College of Urban Education at Davenport University and associate professor at the University of New Orleans. In 2023, he served on Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Josh Shapiro’s transition team on education and the workforce. In 2015, he served on Louisiana Governor Edwards’ K-12 education transition committee and co-chaired New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s transition team for education in 2010. Perry holds a Ph.D. in education policy and leadership from the University of Maryland College Park.

Kim Tillotson Fleming, a former Allegheny College trustee and parent, is the Vice-Chair at Baird and previously was the Chairman and CEO of Hefren-Tillotson, a privately held Pittsburgh-based financial planning and investment advisory firm. She serves on multiple boards, including The Buhl Foundation, Dollar Bank, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and as President of the Duquesne Club. In 2017, Fleming served as the Allegheny College Executive in Residence for the Center for Business and Economics.

In recognition of her extensive community work, Fleming has been awarded the Pittsburgh Business Lifetime Achievement Award, the Roberto Clemente “Seat 21” Award from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was honored with the History Makers Award in Business by the Heinz History Center. In 2015, she was selected by the Governor as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania for extraordinary service and contributions to the Commonwealth. Service work is vital to Fleming, and she has been actively involved with local, national, and international project-related mission trips, including multiple Habitat for Humanity trips to Guatemala. Fleming holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University and several professional designations.

In his Commencement address, Dr. Perry shared the advice, “Expand your ideas of what a family is. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1964, ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’ We must call for an authentic civic patriotism – the idea of a mother country in which our civic bonds produce a sense of belonging and collective sense of identity. Ultimately, democracy demands a patriotism that reflects our authentic connections to one another.”

Perry also reflected on the power writing has had in his life. “Write when you’re falling in love and when you’re breaking apart. Write when you get your dream job and write when you’re out of work… most importantly, write when you think your words can heal yourself or others.

Allegheny President Ron Cole addressed the graduating students.

“In conversations that I’ve had with Allegheny alumni from across generations and from a wide range of backgrounds – what I’ve heard from alumni is this: Allegheny prepared me for paths and careers that I didn’t know that I’d have – for jobs that I didn’t know existed. Remember — the vocations of today are not necessarily the vocations of tomorrow.”

In closing, Cole shared a simple, powerful message: “You are prepared for your journey ahead.”

Earlier in the day, an AYA Rite of Passage Ceremony was held, celebrating first-generation and historically underrepresented graduates of Allegheny College. The celebration was represented by the AYA, an andinkra symbol that represents endurance, resilience and the ability to overcome.