U.S. Sen. Cory Booker will serve as keynote speaker for North Carolina Central University’s 127th baccalaureate ceremony on May 14 at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium on the university’s campus. Booker will address approximately 700 students receiving their bachelor’s degrees. According to preliminary estimates from the NCCU registrar’s office, the Class of 2016 is expected to be one of the largest graduating classes in the university’s history.

A New Jersey native, Booker won a special election to represent New Jersey in the United States Senate on October 13, 2013. He was re-elected to a full six-year term on November 4, 2014. Booker has emerged as a national leader in the congressional push for common-sense criminal justice reform, advocating for front-end sentencing reforms and banning of juvenile solitary confinement in federal facilities, and spearheading legislation to make the hiring process fairer for the formerly incarcerated.

Booker began his career in public service after graduating with a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School by starting a nonprofit organization that provided legal services for low-income families and helped tenants advocate against absentee landlords to improve living conditions and stay in their homes. At the age of 29, he was elected to the Newark, N.J., city council and later became city mayor and worked over his seven-year tenure to steadily increase the city’s economic growth to a record high since the 1960s. A Stanford University graduate, where he earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, Booker played on the varsity football team and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. He studied at the University of Oxford, where he received an honors degree in history.

Booker’s father, the late Cary Booker, was a North Carolina native and 1962 graduate of North Carolina College at Durham – now NCCU.