Commencement Speaker

Tori Murden McClure, explorer and president of Spalding University Tori Murden McClure, explorer and president of Spalding University

Tori Murden McClure, noted explorer and president of Spalding University, will address the Sweet Briar College Class of 2024 at the College’s 115th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18.

Sweet Briar College President Mary Pope M. Hutson ’83 says, “I am thrilled that President McClure will speak to the Class of 2024. Tori’s achievements as an academic, an author, a non-profit administrator, and an adventurer serve as an example for Sweet Briar women poised to set out and make their own mark on the world.”

Tori is perhaps best known as the first woman and first American to row a boat solo across the Atlantic Ocean, having accomplished the feat in 1999 after 81 days at sea. A decade earlier, she became the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole during a 50-day, 750-mile expedition.

During her career, she also has worked as a chaplain at a Boston hospital, as the director of a Louisville women’s shelter, as a policy assistant in the Louisville Mayor’s Office, and as the first full-time employee of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville. Since 2010, Tori has been the president of Spalding University in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

She is a former Board Chair of the National Outdoor Leadership School, and she is a former Vice Chair and Interim Chair of the NCAA Board of Governors – the top governing body in collegiate athletics. Under her leadership, Spalding was certified as the World’s First Compassionate University.

Tori holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, a Master of Divinity from Harvard University, a law degree from the University of Louisville and a Master of Fine Arts in writing degree from Spalding. She is author of the memoir, A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean, which details her life and journey across the Atlantic. The book is the basis of a stage musical, called Row , which made its world premiere at the prestigious Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts in the summer of 2021.