Paula BoggsPaula BoggsIn May, Southwestern University will welcome Paula Boggs as the keynote speaker for the 2020 Commencement ceremony. Boggs will bring insights from her historic and varied career, which often includes breaking barriers as the first woman of color in her professional life as an attorney, Army Airborne veteran, corporate executive, philanthropist, and musician. 

“We are honored to welcome Ms. Boggs to Southwestern,” says President Dale T. Knobel. “The breadth of her professional life and her pursuit of personal passion projects set a great example to our student body on the value of creativity, collaboration, and originality.” 

The Washington, DC, native earned her B.A. in international studies from The Johns Hopkins University in 1981 and her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law in 1984. During this time, Boggs served in the U.S. Army as a regular officer after earning her Army Airborne wings as a paratrooper. She was also one of the first women to receive a congressional appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland. After law school and as an Army officer, she served as an attorney at the Pentagon and in the White House Office of Legal Counsel.

After working as an assistant U.S. attorney in the State of Washington, Boggs was named a partner at Preston Gates & Ellis, LLP, law firm in Seattle, Washington. While living in Georgetown, Texas, she also served for five years at Dell Corporation as vice president, specializing in products, operations, and technology law. She then moved to Starbucks as executive vice president and chief legal officer in 2002. Boggs led the global law department at the company for 10 years and served as board secretary of the philanthropic Starbucks Foundation. She has also served 26 years in the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates and on its Board of Governors.

After leaving Starbucks, Boggs formed the Paula Boggs Band, a group that fuses blues, bluegrass, jazz, rock, and Americana. In addition to music, Boggs continues to devote time to public speaking and various for-profit and nonprofit boards. After serving 18 years as a member of the board of trustees at The Johns Hopkins University, Boggs is now a trustee emerita. 

Southwestern University’s commencement ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 9, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. in the Corbin J. Robertson Center.