Former U.S. Second Lady and Community College Professor Dr. Jill Biden Presented Keynote Address at MATC Spring Commencement May 12

Ginny Gnadt, Public Relations Coordinator

May 12, 2017

Dr. Jill Biden, former U.S. second lady and community college professor

Dr. Jill Biden, former U.S. second lady and community college professor, was the keynote speaker at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s spring commencement Friday, May 12, at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. Joe Biden, her husband, served as the 47th U.S. vice president from 2009 to 2017.

Local philanthropis Chris Abele, Milwaukee county executive, also announced a $500,000 personal gift for the MATC Promise at the ceremony.

Approximately 1,400 students graduated from MATC’s associate degree, technical diploma, apprentice and adult high school programs.

Currently an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, Biden’s accomplishments as second lady included increasing national awareness of the importance of community and technical education. Along with former President Barack Obama, Dr. Biden led a campaign to ensure greater access to higher education by advocating for two years of free community college for students across the country. She continues to promote College Promise programs across the nation.  

With the launch of the Biden Foundation in February 2017, Dr. Biden and her husband will continue their commitment to strengthening the middle class, protecting women and children against violence, and supporting community colleges and military families.

MATC launched Wisconsin’s first Promise program. Beginning in fall 2016, the MATC Promise paid tuition and fees, after federal and state financial aid was applied, for eligible high school students enrolling at the college.

In 2012, Biden traveled across the country as part of the “Community College to Career” tour to highlight successful industry partnerships between community colleges and employers. She hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama in 2010 and subsequent White House gatherings of community college officials. She frequentlyvisited colleges, meeting with students, professors, and industry representatives on behalf of the Obama administration.

Biden teamed with former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011 to launch the Joining Forces initiative, which inspired Americans to find new ways to support military families in their own communities. She also wrote a children’s book, Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, based on her granddaughter’s perspective of a military family’s experience with deployment.

She earned her doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007. Her dissertation focused on maximizing student retention in community colleges. Biden holds a master’s degree in reading education from West Chester University and a master’s in English from Villanova University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Delaware.

Dr. Vicki J. Martin, MATC president, officially conferred the degrees at the commencement; and Kurt D. Wachholz, chairperson of the MATC District Board, addressed the assembly.

Lydia Gonwa, who graduated with an associate degree from the dietetic technician program, presented the student speech. Gonwa also received the Outstanding Associate Degree Graduate Award. Nicholas Bowersock, who received a welding technical diploma, received the Outstanding Technical Diploma Graduate Award. Bau Ya received the Outstanding Adult High School Graduate Award.

Wisconsin’s largest technical college and the most diverse two-year institution in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. Approximately 40,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers 200 academic programs; nearly 400 transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees; and School of a Pre-College Education that assists people to complete high school, prepare for college or enter the workforce. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission, the national standard for academics and student services.

Watch a replay of the ceremony on MATC's YouTube Channel:link