Fort Valley State University will welcome one of the highest ranking African-American executives at Microsoft as its keynote commencement speaker for the fall 2019 ceremony scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019.
Fred Humphries, corporate vice president of the U.S. Government Affairs for Microsoft, said growing up he attended lots of commencements. It was just a routine part of life for the son of a university president, he said.
“I was raised in Tennessee, and my father (Dr. Frederick S. Humphries Sr.) was president of Tennessee State University and then Florida A&M University,” said Humphries, who was the first African-American officer in his Microsoft Division. “So, I was raised on HBCU (historically black college and universities) campuses.”
Approximately 239 degrees will be awarded at the FVSU fall commencement ceremony, which begins at 9:30 a.m., at FVSU Health and Physical Education (HPE) Complex, 1005 State University Drive in Fort Valley, GA 31030. Guests are asked to be seated by 9 a.m.
FVSU President Paul Jones said Humphries epitomizes the caliber of leadership and talent HBCUs like Fort Valley State have committed themselves to producing for centuries.
“We are exceptionally adept at taking students from all backgrounds and providing them with a world-class education that prepares them for the highest levels of leadership,” said Jones. “Along with a stellar academic foundation, FVSU also gives its students the confidence to be competitive no matter what field they pursue.”
Humphries’ role as Microsoft’s chief public policy advocate means he sets the corporation’s strategy and government affairs outreach on the most pressing policy issues facing the technology industry. Some of those issues include cloud computing, taxes, privacy, trade, cybersecurity, education, immigration and emerging technologies. When he joined the tech company in 2000 as director of State Governmental Affairs, he’d already spent nearly two decades working behind-the-scenes in governmental and political arenas.
“I’ve worked on four different presidential campaigns and in different capacities for former Tennessee Governor Ned Ray McWherter,” said Humphries, a graduate of Morehouse College and Temple University School of Law. “I then had the opportunity to move to Washington, D.C., and to Capitol Hill, where I served as chief of staff for Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-GA, and working for him was the highlight of my life. All those chapters prepared me to be at Microsoft.”
Looking back on his distinguished career in corporate, government and politics, Humphries said he still considers his background as an HBCU graduate to be one of the most significant events in his life.
“I always wanted to go to an HBCU,” said Humphries. “I had no desire to go anywhere else, and it was the best thing that happened to me.”
Along with academics, Humphries said HBCUs also specialize in providing African-American students with a mixture of confidence, nurturing and tough love.
“The main thing is that they invest in you, but they also keep it real with you. HBCUs coach you and nurture you. You are not just a number,” he said. “They are preparing you for what you need in the workforce. Generally, you are not going to be that at the majority (white) institutions. That’s the intangible of attending an HBCU. You may not appreciate it at the moment, but let’s talk in 10 years from now because the preparation they give you and what they do will make you the best that you can be.”
Humphries said when addressing FVSU’s graduates, he’ll stress the importance of hard work, intellectual curiosity and taking risks.
“Yes, there are a lot of people out there, but most successful people simply worked hard,” Humphries said. “They took risks and sometimes, they had a bit of luck. But they went out there and got the job done because that is what it takes to succeed. I’m going to tell the graduates that they are not unlike me. Here I am at Microsoft with people working for me from the most elite schools throughout the world. And a person from an HBCU is able to do it. I am not unique because you can do it too if you commit to honing your skills to be the best at what you are doing.”
Humphries serves on the boards of numerous non-profit and public service organizations, including Temple University Beasley School of Law, Information Technology Industry Council, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and the USTR Advisory Committee on Africa, among others.
He and his wife, Kim – a native of Macon, Georgia – reside in Washington, D.C. They have two adult children.