Approximately 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students will celebrate the Georgia Institute of Technology’s 247th commencement with three ceremonies. The Institute will award bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees through its six colleges and 29 schools.
Admiral James "Sandy" Winnefeld will address the Ph.D. and master’s ceremony on Friday, May 2, in the McCamish Pavilion at 7 p.m. Muhtar Kent, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company, and Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, will address the undergraduate ceremonies on Saturday, May 3 at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
Admiral Winnefeld serves as the ninth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, his is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s second highest-ranking military officer.
Admiral Winnefeld graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology and received his commission from the Navy Reserve Office Training Corps program. He subsequently served with three fighter squadrons flying the F-14 Tomcast and as an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School.
Admiral Winnefeld’s unit commands at sea include Fighter Squadron 211, USS Cleveland (LPD 7) and USS Enterprise (CVN 65). He led “Big E” through her 18th deployment, which included combat operations in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom immediately after the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. As commander, Carrier Strike Group TWO/Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, he led Task Forces 50, 152 and 58 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and maritime interception operations in the Arabian Gulf. He also served as commander, United States SIXTH Fleet; commander, NATO Allied Joint Command Lisbon; and commander, Striking Support Forces, NATO.
His shore tours include service in the Joint Operations Directorate (J-3), as senior aide to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as executive assistant to the vice chief of naval operations. As a flag officer he served ashore as director, Warfare Programs and Transformational Concepts, United States Fleet Forces Command, as director of Joint Innovation and Experimentation at United States Joint Forces Command and as the director of Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5) on the Joint Staff. He most recently served as the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM).
Admiral Winnefeld’s awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal and five Battle Efficiency awards.
Muhtar Kent is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company, a position he has held since April 2009. Previously he was president and chief executive officer and earlier, president and chief operating officer.
Kent joined The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta in 1978 and has held a variety of marketing and operations leadership roles throughout his career in markets across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
In 2005, Kent was appointed president of Coca-Cola International, responsible for overseeing all operations outside of North America. In 2006, he assumed the role of president and chief operating officer and in 2008 was elevated to president and CEO.
Kent holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Hull in England and a Master of Science degree in Administrative Sciences from Cass Business School, City University London.
Active in the global business community, Kent is chairman of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s CEO Council on Health and Innovation, a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association, a member of the Business Roundtable, immediate past co-chair of the Consumer Goods Forum, a past chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council and chairman emeritus of the U.S. ASEAN Business Council. He also is a member of the Eminent Persons Group for ASEAN, appointed by President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He serves on the boards of 3M, Special Olympics International, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Catalyst and Emory University.
Ralph de la Vega is president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, a position he has held since 2007. Under his leadership, AT&T Mobility has become one of the world’s leading smartphone and mobile Internet providers and is expanding into new growth areas such as home security and automation, connected cars and mobile payments.
Previously, de la Vega served as chief operating officer of Cingular Wireless, with responsibility for technology planning, network operations, marketing, sales and customer care. Before joining Cingular in 2004, he served as president of BellSouth Latin America. He started his career in 1974 with BellSouth (then Southern Bell) as a management assistant.
De la Vega serves on the boards of New York Life Insurance Company, the Georgia Aquarium, Morehouse College and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. As a strong believer in community service, de la Vega actively supports nonprofit and youth organizations, serving as chairman of All-Markets Initiatives for the Boy Scouts of America and previously as chairman of Junior Achievement Worldwide. In 2013, he was honored with the Boy Scouts’ highest commendation – the Silver Buffalo Award – recognizing his distinguished service to youth.
The recipient of numerous awards recognizing his leadership, de la Vega has been inducted into the Atlanta Business Hall of Fame and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Alumni Hall of Fame. He is featured in the HBO original documentary The Latino List, which profiles notable and influential Latinos in America. In 2011, he received the prestigious Global Innovation Award from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
De la Vega holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Florida Atlantic University and a master’s degree in business administration from Northern Illinois University. He completed the Executive Program at the University of Virginia and received an honorary doctorate from Florida Atlantic. He is the author of the best-selling book Obstacles Welcome: Turn Adversity to Advantage in Business and Life.
A native of Cuba, de la Vega lives in Atlanta.
AVP, Georgia Tech News and Campus Communications
Last revised August 1, 2017