Brigadier General James A. Ryans II to Deliver Keynote Address at National University’s 2024 Commencement on May 18 in Petco Park

Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region, the general’s personal story of success through lifelong learning, dedication and service serves as an inspiration to graduates

SAN DIEGO, CA (April 25, 2024)National University (NU) – a veteran-founded nonprofit serving a very diverse population of non-traditional, working, and military-affiliated students – today announced that Brigadier General James A. Ryans II, Commanding General,  Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region, will deliver the keynote address during NU’s commencement ceremonies on May 18 at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

“General Ryans is a lifelong learner who has continually found success through education and hard work,” said Dr. Mark D. Milliron, president and CEO of National University. “He serves as an inspiration for our students, most of whom are working adults who have juggled many demands in their personal lives and overcome many challenges to earn their degrees.”

During the ceremony, President Milliron will confer an honorary doctoral degree to Ryans out of respect for his exemplary service to the nation. Over the course of his 36-year career in the Marines, Ryans has earned multiple master’s degrees and other educational achievements while simultaneously taking on greater and greater responsibilities in military service. As commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, he also represents a vital element of the San Diego region, sending an important message of service and responsibility to NU students.

NU was founded in San Diego in 1971 by retired U.S. Navy Capt. David Chigos, who was seeking to provide active-duty military and Veterans with the education they would need to transition to the civilian workforce. NU has since expanded into an access and success innovator serving an extremely diverse student population of non-traditional and underserved learners from many walks of life, with approximately half of undergraduates being active-duty military, Veterans, and their dependents. In March, Military Friendly® designated NU a Gold Status Military Friendly School and a Top 10 Military Friendly Spouse School for 2024.

“I’m honored to be asked to speak to the extraordinary graduates of National University,” Ryans said. “They already have jobs. They have kids. They’re service members. They have responsibilities. And still, they stood up and took that first small step, then another and another, down that long road to achieving their goals, changing the lives of their loved ones, and contributing to their communities.”

Ryans will speak at two distinct NU commencement ceremonies at Petco Park on May 18. The first ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and include graduates from the College of Law and Public Service, the School of Health Professions, JFK School of Psychology and Social Sciences, and the College of Business, Engineering and Technology. The second ceremony will start at 3 p.m. for graduates from the Sanford College of Education and the School of Arts, Letters and Sciences.

About 6,200 students are graduating this year, and the university expects the 2024 graduation to draw more than 30,000 total attendees, including graduates, their guests and members of the worldwide NU alumni network, which is more than 230,000 strong.

As an alternative to the large-scale commencement in May, NU will offer students a more personal graduation experience in a much smaller venue during the National University Grad Walk ceremony on October 26. Students attending NU Grad Walk reserve a specific time, walk through the ceremony with their friends and family, stop to take pictures, are greeted by university leadership, and end their experience in a celebration room with other graduates and their supporters.

NU is the largest conferrer of graduate degrees to minority students in the U.S., with more than 50 percent of graduates being women. In addition, NU is the third largest conferrer of doctoral degrees overall. One of the largest private Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) in the United States, two-thirds of NU’s students and graduates are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).

About National University

National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 190+ online and on-campus programs with flexible four-week and eight-week classes and one-to-one graduate education models designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to 130,000 learners served per year—50,000 degree-seeking students and 80,000 workforce and professional development students—and 230,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice. To learn more about National University’s new possibilities in education including next-generation education, value-rich education, and whole human education, visit

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