Deborah Bial, a nationally recognized leader in educational access and president and founder of The Posse Foundation, will deliver the Commencement address at University of Puget Sound’s 128th graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 17. Her selection as speaker has special significance this year—among the Class of 2020 is the first cohort of Posse Scholars at Puget Sound. University of Puget Sound partnered with The Posse Foundation in 2015 as part of a comprehensive strategy to increase access to college and to become a more inclusive campus.

Bial founded The Posse Foundation in 1989 to identify, recruit, and train high-achieving, urban high school students, and send them in teams, or posses, to selective colleges and universities, which provide merit scholarships. The small group ensures that a support system is in place as the students, often first-generation college students, navigate a new and often challenging landscape. Under Bial’s leadership, The Posse Foundation has become one of the most comprehensive college success and scholarship programs in the nation. Posse Scholars persist and graduate at a rate of 90%, and are active leaders both on their campuses and in the workforce.

Bial is an expert in the fields of higher education administration, college success, and leadership development. Her extensive experience in facilitating dialogue related to issues of access, equity, and diversity—and in guiding selective institutions of higher education toward improved admission policies—has gained her national recognition in the higher education community in the United States. In 2007, Bial received a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in education from Harvard University, and her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University. Bial has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates.

Puget Sound’s 2019 Commencement Ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m. The ceremony will take place in Baker Stadium. More information is available at

Photo of Deborah Bial courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation