ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) all-star player and team co-owner Lisa Leslie will be the 2019 Commencement keynote speaker for Columbia Southern University (CSU) on Oct. 18, 2019, at the Foley Event Center at OWA.
Leslie, who holds an MBA and has won four gold medals as part of Team USA, joined the WNBA in 1997 and would go on to become one it its most successful players. In 2001, Leslie was the first WNBA player to win the regular season MVP, the All-Star Game MVP and the playoff MVP in the same season. That same year, Leslie led the Los Angeles Sparks to their first WNBA Finals, formerly known as the WNBA Championship. In 2002, she became the WNBA all-time leading scorer, was named MVP of the regular season for the second year in a row, and led the Sparks to another championship.
“In addition to having an exemplary career, Lisa was also an adult learner who benefited from an online education while pursuing her career,” said CSU President Ken Styron. “Her experience balancing her studies with work is one that CSU graduates know all too well. We are thrilled to welcome Lisa to share her story.”
Today, she runs the Lisa Leslie Basketball and Leadership Academy and serves as co-host of CBS Sports' "We Need to Talk" and as an analyst for the Orlando Magic for Fox Florida. Recently, it was announced that she will be the first female athlete honored with a statue outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Leslie is the first professional athlete to speak at a CSU commencement. Past speakers include Army veteran and winner of “Dancing with the Stars’” J. R. Martinez, Freedom Writers Foundation founder Erin Gruwell, ABC News correspondent John Quinones and four-star Gen. (Ret.) Dan K. McNeill.
In addition to its annual commencement ceremonies, CSU will also conduct an Open House on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, where graduates will be invited to participate in a service project benefitting USO Northwest Florida.