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August 20, 2015
New NAACO President Lisa Walker Takes Reign

December 18, 2014
NAACO’s 2015 Annual Conference Puts Spotlight on Event Production and Work/Life Balance

September 17, 2014
New NAACO President Lois Ferguson Takes Reign

August 29, 2014
Philadelphia Magazine – Temple University Football to Honor Lewis Katz

August 28, 2014
OWLSPORTS – Temple University Athletics – Temple Football Honors Lewis Katz with Commemorative Patches

August 17, 2014
Courier-Post – Late Katz Named Best Commencement Speaker

August 10, 2014
In the Capital – NAACO Names John Hopkins Speaker and YouTube CEO Top Speakers

August 9, 2014
The News-Gazette – Mike Hopkins’s Address Named One of the Nation’s Best

August 5, 2014
HUB – Susan Wojcicki’s JHU Commencement Address One of 2014’s Most Inspiring

August 4, 2014
PhilaU – Nick Christian ’14 Selected Along with President Obama as a Top Commencement Speaker

August 4, 2014
CBS 2 News Chicago at 5:00AM – NAACO Lists Michael Hopkins as Top Commencement Speaker

August 3, 2014
Philly.com – Katz Feted for Temple Speech

August 1, 2014
Press Release – NAACO Members Weigh-In on Best Commencement Speakers of the Season

August 1, 2014
Penn News – Lewis Katz Recognized as Top 2014 Commencement Speaker

August 1, 2014
Philly.com – Lewis Katz Recognized as Top 2014 Commencement Speaker

August 1, 2014
Chicago Tribune – Astronaut Sky High on List of Best Graduation Speakers

August 1, 2014
Temple University – Lewis Katz’s Unforgettable Temple Graduation Speech Named Nation’s Best

May 27, 2014
Philly.com – At Penn Graduations, A Dearth of Female Speakers

May 2014
Smart Meetings – Tips to Manage Stress When Planning Events

March 20, 2014
Four Tips to Manage Stress During Commencement Season

January/February 2014
Connect – NAACO Annual Conference

November 20, 2013
NAACO’s 14th Annual Conference to Honor the Past and Inspire the Future

September 17, 2013
USAE – NAACO Announces New President, Linda Bekerian, Northeastern University

September 5, 2013
NAACO Announces Linda Bekerian, Northeastern University, as New President and Board of Directors

July 11, 2013
Commencement’s Over, Now What?

July 2013
Association News – How New Technologies are Being Use to Engage Attendees at Meetings and Events

July 2013
Sports Travel – How New Technologies are Being Use to Engage Attendees at Meetings and Events

May-June 2013
Connect – NAACO Annual Conference

May 14, 2013
American School and University – The Greening of Commencement Ceremonies

April 17, 2013
Three Technological Trends to Embrace, Encourage and Engage Attendees at Commencement

March 19, 2013
USAE – NAACO 2013 Annual Conference

November 30, 2012
NAACO Annual Conference Spells Commencement with a “Capital C”

November 2012
University Affairs – Susan Durkee Named President of NAACO

August 15, 2012
Concordia University News – Susan Durkee Appointed President of NAACO

August 9, 2012
New NAACO Board Takes Reign

June 1, 2012
How Does Your Setting Affect Your Graduation Plan?

May-June 2012
Connect – NAACO Annual Conference

May 5, 2012
Smart Meetings – NAACO Annual Conference

May 4, 2012
The Chronicle of Higher Education – Pomp, Circumstance, and the People Who Make It All Happen

May 1, 2012
American School and University – Tips to Ensure Effective Commencement and Convocation Preparation

May 2012
American School and University – Secure Ceremonies: Tips to Ensure Effective Commencement and Convocation Preparation

April 29, 2012
The Chronicle of Higher Education – Pomp, Circumstance, and the People Who Make It All Happen

January 16, 2012
NAACO Annual Conference to Foster Collaborations and Connections

November 29, 2011
USAE News – NAACO Partners with CMA

November 22, 2011
NAACO Invests in Strategic Growth Initiative to Enhance Member Value

Board of Directors Contact List

NAACO Board of Directors
Current NAACO Officers (2016-2017)


Sheelagh Atkinson, President

Manager, Convocation and Special Projects
York University
416-736-2100 (77626)



Sheelagh Atkinson has been a member of NAACO since 2004, and served on a number of committees as well as Director-at-Large, Membership for five years on the NAACO Executive Board.

Sheelagh has worked at York University, Toronto for 26 years in a number of roles. Her present position as the Manager, Events and Ceremonials has oversight of all university events, including 18 annual convocation ceremonies. York University is the 3rd largest university in Canada, conferring over 11,000 degrees annually. Sheelagh’s ongoing mandate is to enhance the student experience and this is reflected in her strong belief that convocation is the most important thing we do as a university. To that end, Sheelagh and her colleagues continually strive to improve and refine convocation for graduating students and their families. Tentanda Via … The Way Must be Tried.


Suzanne Kahl, President Elect

Commencement Coordinator
Tufts University

Suzanne Kahl currently serves as Secretary on NAACO's Board of Directors. She has worked as Commencement Coordinator at Tufts University since 2006. She plans and organizes the all-university commencement ceremony, and helps coordinate and provide logistical support for the Baccalaureate service, and for 26 school and department diploma ceremonies. She is responsible for editing commencement publications, maintaining the commencement website, monitoring finances of commencement accounts, and coordinating the meetings of the university-wide commencement committee (consisting of 30 members). In addition, she helped coordinate Tufts’ presidential inauguration ceremony and events in 2011. Suzanne has been a member of NAACO for 8 years, and has organized two NAACO regional meetings at Tufts, most recently in December 2013. Suzanne holds a Bachelor of Arts from Tufts University, and a Master’s Degree in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Birmingham, England.


Lisa Walker, Past President

Lisa Walker Director of Ceremonies, Marketing Manager
University of Washington Bothell

As Director of Ceremonies, Lisa is responsible for planning and coordinating all aspects of the commencement and convocation ceremonies at the University of Washington Bothell. This includes event logistics, budget preparation and reconciliation, supervising all volunteers, faculty, staff and vendors to create and implement memorable commencement ceremonies. Lisa also plans additional university events. In addition to her ceremonies work, Lisa is the Marketing and Advertising Manager at her institution.

Lisa is currently the Chairperson of the General Staff Organization and is the recipient of the 2010 Staff Appreciation Award. Additionally, she is also the recipient of a 2009 District VIII Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Bronze Award for "Branding UW Bothell."


­Julie Vanderyagt, Treasurer

Christine Deehan Manager, Special Events and Ceremonies
Capilano University
604-986-1911 (7217)

Julie Vanderyagt is the Manager of Special Events and Ceremonies at Capilano University and a 9 year veteran at organizing Commencement.

A dedicated NAACO member since 2006, Julie has been on the conference committee for 4 NAACO conferences (Montreal, Austin, Seattle and Miami) and enjoys the deeper connection that has come out of getting more involved in NAACO.

Julie is so proud of her fundraising teams' tremendous success last year raising $10 000 for the NAACO charity- Summit Assistance Dogs.


­Lisa Arakaki, Secretary

Lisa Arakaki  

Lisa Arakaki serves as the Senior Director of Special Events in the Office of the President at American University in Washington, D.C. She works closely with campus partners to coordinate large-scale events including commencement, All-American Weekend, Staff Appreciation, Celebrate AU, and the Faculty-Staff Holiday Party. In addition, she assists with special projects, advises departments and student organizations on event logistics and protocol issues, and represents the office on campus-wide committees. She has worked in Special Events for more than eighteen years and previously worked in the School of International Service. American University is a founding member of NAACO and Lisa served as co-chair of the 2013 Annual Conference in Washington, DC and the Southeast Regional Director for 2014-15.


Brad Coburn, Director at Large

Brad Coburn Calendar and Convocation Coordinator
McMaster University
905-525-9140 (23091)

Brad Coburn has worked at McMaster University since 2002, after receiving an Honours B.A. in Classics and Multimedia. In 2010, he earned a Master of Education in the Higher Education program from the department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education (TPS) at OISE/University of Toronto. Currently, Brad currently works as the Calendar & Convocation Coordinator in the Office of the Registrar, and is an elected (non-teaching staff) member of McMaster's Board of Governors and academic Senate. Serving on many working groups and subcommittees that include the Finance committee, the Human Resources Advisory Panel, the Committee to Recommend a President, and several Alumni Association committees. Brad assumed the role of Director at Large for Membership in 2014 and is passionate about improving the network of convocation/commencement and academic event planners across North America, so we all may benefit from the diverse experiences and practices present in the group.


Pamela Faust, Director at Large-Education

Pamela J. Faust  

Pamela J. Faust is the Executive Assistant to the President and Provost at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. She serves the offices of the President and Provost jointly as the college's ceremony officer, coordinating small- to large-scale ceremonial events, two internal grant programs, and the academic award and honorary degree processes. In addition, Pamela provides event planning assistance to sister offices in the academic division and logistical support to the Faculty Chair in various governance areas. Pamela has been a member of NAACO for eight years, serving on the Education Committee for the last two years. Before coming to Kenyon College, she served as director of adult literary programs at The (James) Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio, and as development event coordinator at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron, Ohio.


Jill Williams, Director at Large

Jill Williams Jill Williams
Associate Director of University Events
Johns Hopkins University

Jill Williams manages large-scale events for Johns Hopkins University including Commencement, Convocation, building groundbreakings and dedications. She takes special interest in recruiting, training, managing and retaining event volunteers. She is also passionate about incorporating event safety into the planning process. Prior to coming to Hopkins, Jill was senior account manager for Hargrove, Inc. in the Washington D.C. area, where she worked on high profile events including two U.S. Presidential Inaugurations and Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Nationals Stadium. Jill has also done events for the Alumni Associations at both the University of Maryland and Bowling Green State University that included award galas, reunion programing and athletic events. Jill has presented twice at the annual NAACO conference and has been active on two conference planning committees. She was recently named Interim Director at Large for Communications, for the NAACO Board of Directors.

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