2023 Commencement Speakers

Otterbein is proud the following distinguished leaders will serve as commencement speakers to help us celebrate the accomplishments of our 2023 graduates.

Commencement weekend ceremonies begin on Friday, April 28, with Otterbein’s Baccalaureate ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. in Cowan Hall. While limited in person seating is available, this ceremony will also be streamed live online.

Family, friends and guests are invited to view the live stream of Otterbein’s 2022 commencement ceremonies >

Class of 2023 Undergraduate Commencement Speaker: Sunday, April 30, 9:30 a.m.

Jonathan Hargis '79

Jonathan Hargis ’79

Former Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Charter Communications, 2012-2022

Jonathan Hargis ’79 graduated from Otterbein with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and went on to become the top marketing executive at a Fortune 100 company. Hargis was executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Charter Communications from 2012-2022, when he retired. In that role, he was responsible for customer relationship growth and revenue for the $51 billion company, which employs 25,000 sales and marketing professionals. He also developed and launched the new Spectrum brand.

Prior to joining Charter, Hargis was executive vice president, marketing for Cablevision Systems Corporation, where he worked from 2000-2012. He started his career at AT&T in 1979 and served in various leadership positions, including national sales director from 1996-1996 and director of marketing from 1997-2000. Hargis also served on the board of the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) Educational Foundation from 2008-2012 and chaired the CTAM board from 2011-2012.

At Otterbein, Hargis was a member of the tennis team, Sigma Delta Phi Fraternity, and was president of the Inter-Fraternity Council his senior year. After graduating, he went on to earn his master’s degree in business administration from Wright State University and certificate in strategic marketing management from Harvard University.

Hargis met his future wife, Gretchen Freeman Hargis ’77 when both were students at Otterbein. The Cardinal couple went on to have three daughters. They live in Long Island, NY. Now that he is retired, Hargis spends his time boating and playing golf and tennis.

Class of 2023 Undergraduate Commencement Speaker: Sunday, April 30, 1:30 p.m.

Rob Portman

Rob Portman

Former United States Senator (OH), 2011-2023

Rob Portman’s career in public service spanned three decades and included service in three presidential administrations, two terms in the United States Senate, and six terms in the United States House of Representatives.

In the George W. Bush administration, he served in two cabinet-level jobs, as director of the Office of Management and Budget and U.S. trade representative. Under President George H.W. Bush, he served as associate counsel to the president and director, White House Office of Legislative Affairs.

Portman is known for his civility, successful bipartisan policymaking, work ethic, and grasp of a broad range of complex issues. Over 220 of Portman’s bills were signed into law by Presidents Biden, Trump, and Obama during his tenure in the Senate. He served as the lead Republican negotiator on the bipartisan infrastructure law that is making historic improvements to our nation’s roads, ports, rails, bridges, broadband, and more.

He played a key role in U.S. foreign policy through his seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as co-chair and founder of the Senate Ukraine Caucus. He made 10 trips to Ukraine since the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 and is a key advocate for congressional support of Ukraine against Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression.

Portman was born and raised in Cincinnati, where he still lives today with his wife, Jane. Together they have three adult children, Jed, Will, and Sally.

Class of 2023 Graduate School Commencement Speaker: Sunday, April 30, 5:30 p.m.

Barb Smoot

Barb Smoot

President and CEO of Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD)

Barb Smoot is the president and CEO of Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD), a national nonprofit that develops and advances women’s leadership to strengthen the economic prosperity of the communities it serves. She is the driving force behind WELD’s rapid growth and serves as primary community liaison, overseeing fundraising, collaborative partnerships and development and implementation of WELD’s strategic initiatives, including WELD’s national expansion. In her current role, she builds programs to prepare women and women of color for advanced leadership opportunities including service on government boards and commissions and for-profit company boards.

Smoot, a past Fellow in the Society of Actuaries, has more than 20 years of financial services experience at Nationwide. As vice president of business development for the In-Retirement Division at Nationwide Financial, she led the development and implementation of IRA rollover strategies to retain customer assets from Nationwide’s nearly $100 billion Retirement Plans business segment and to attract new customers to the company. Previous roles include serving as business development head for income products and product manager for the company’s individual life insurance line of business, a profit center that generated over $80 million in pre-tax operating earnings and over $175 million in first-year premiums and a variable universal life insurance product line ranked fourth in the industry at the time.

The Ohio Latino Affairs Commission honored Smoot with the 2022 Nuestra Familia Award for her impact in Ohio’s Latino community. She is a 2021 Otterbein University Honorary Alumna and a 2020 YWCA Columbus Woman of Achievement honoree. She was recognized by Columbus Business First on its Power 100 list from 2019-2021; by Columbus CEO as its CEO of the Year for Small Nonprofits in 2017; and by Smart Business on its Smart 50 list in 2017. Smoot was also recognized as the 2014 National Association of Women Business Owners’ Columbus Women’s Business Champion. Under her leadership, WELD was awarded the Columbus Business First 2019 Outstanding Diversity Organization (Micro Category) and featured as Community Network of the Year by The Women’s Book.

Smoot has extensive board service and currently chairs the advisory board of Western Governors University Ohio. She is a former commissioner on the Columbus Women’s Commission, chairing its Gender Equity in the Workplace Committee. She has served on boards of Nationwide Federal Credit Union, the Martin Luther King Arts Complex, National Church Residences, and St. Joseph Montessori School.

She graduated from Amherst College with a bachelor of arts degree in physics.