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Keynote Speakers for the Fall 2019 Commencement Ceremonies


Morning Ceremony Speaker: Dr. Angie Paccione, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher EducationDr. Angie Paccione

Angie Paccione was appointed executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education by Gov. Jared Polis, assuming the role last Jan. 10 and unanimously confirmed by the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 17.

She has more than 20 years of experience in secondary and postsecondary education. She was a high school teacher, coach and administrator at Smoky Hill High School in the Cherry Creek School District before earning a Ph.D. in education and human-resource studies from Colorado State University. There, Paccione served on the CSU faculty for 9 years as a teacher educator in the “Project Promise” program, a nationally recognized program of excellence in teacher preparation for midcareer professionals. She also conducted research in the teacher-education field, examining educators’ life events that led them to become committed to issues of diversity and inclusion. Her findings informed a teacher-preparation program and were later published in Teacher’s College Press, which has been cited in over 75 academic papers.

Paccione left higher education to pursue public service and was elected to two terms in the Colorado House of Representatives, rising to become House majority caucus chair. She served on the Education Committee during all four years in the legislature, helping to guide the education environment for the state of Colorado. In 2006, she ran for U.S. Congress and came within 2.5% of unseating the incumbent.

From 2007 to her appointment as executive director, Paccione worked for Verus Global, where she specialized in leadership development, diversity and inclusion, talent development and change management. She has worked with leaders from the shop floor to the C-suite in 40 countries and all 50 states. Paccione has also co-authored two books on leadership: “One Team: 10-minute Discussions That Activate Inspired Teamwork” and “Do Big Things: The Simple Steps Teams Can Take to Mobilize Hearts and Minds, and Make an Epic Impact.”

Having grown up biracial in New York City and attended college in California, and residing in Colorado, Paccione bridges many divides. She was raised to believe you can accomplish anything to which you set your mind, a philosophy that runs through her life’s accomplishments. She played basketball at Stanford University and professionally in the 1980s, and her credo is that she’s as committed to your success as she is her own.

When she’s not working, Paccione can be found reading, traveling, enjoying theatre and films or gardening. She counts her family and friends among her greatest blessings.



Afternoon Ceremony Speaker: Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN (Ret.) Operating Executive, The Carlyle Group

A Florida native, Jim Stavridis attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and spent 37 years in the Navy, rising to the rank of four-star admiral. Among his many commands were four years as the 16th supreme Adm. Jim Stavridis (Ret.) USNallied commander at NATO, where he oversaw operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, the Balkans and counterpiracy off the coast of Africa. He also commanded U.S. Southern Command in Miami, charged with military operations throughout Latin America, for nearly three years. He was the longest-serving combatant commander in recent U.S. history. Following his military career, he served for five years as the 12th dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. 

In the course of his career in the Navy, he served as senior military assistant to the secretary of the Navy and the secretary of Defense. He led the Navy’s premier operational think tank for innovation, Deep Blue, immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

He won the Battenberg Cup for commanding the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet and the Navy League John Paul Jones Award for inspirational leadership, along with more than 50 U.S. and international medals and decorations, including 28 from foreign nations. He also commanded a destroyer squadron and a carrier strike group, both in combat.

In 2016, he was vetted for vice president by Hillary Clinton and subsequently invited to Trump Tower to discuss a Cabinet position with President Donald Trump.

He earned a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School at Tufts, winning the Gullion Prize as outstanding student in his class in 1983, as well as academic honors from the National and Naval War Colleges as a distinguished student. He speaks Spanish and French.

Adm. Stavridis has published eight books on leadership, the oceans, maritime affairs and Latin America, as well as hundreds of articles in leading journals. An active user of social networks, he has tens of thousands of connections. His TED talk on 21st-century security in 2012 has had over 1 million views. He tweeted the end of combat operations in the Libyan NATO intervention. His memoir of the NATO years, “The Accidental Admiral,” was released in October 2014, and he had two books out in 2017: “The Leader’s Bookshelf: 50 Books That Make Us Better Leaders” in March and “Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the Oceans” in June.

Adm. Stavridis is also the chair of the Board of the U.S. Naval Institute, the professional association of the nation’s sea services: the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. He is a monthly columnist for Time magazine and chief international security analyst for NBC News. 

He is happily married to Laura, and they have two daughters – one working at Google and the other a Registered Nurse and former Naval officer, both married to physicians.


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