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Auburn alumna, retired Army colonel Dr. Simona Black selected to deliver fall commencement address

Published: November 01, 2022 | Updated: November 22, 2022
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Dr. Simona Black, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and 1994 Auburn University graduate, will deliver the keynote address at the institution’s fall commencement exercises at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9.

A native of Sacramento, California, Black earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Auburn before embarking on a career in the Army Nurse Corps that resulted in multiple combat tours to care for critically ill and injured servicemen and women. An accomplished clinical administrator, military leader and policy advocate, Black is set to deliver an inspiring message reflecting her journey as a former student leader, combat nurse and healthcare expert before thousands of graduates and their guests assembled at Neville Arena.

“Leadership and selfless service are synonymous with Auburn’s land-grant mission, and Dr. Simona Black epitomizes these qualities through her distinguished nursing career and service to our country,” said Auburn President Christopher B. Roberts. “Our goal as an institution is always to foster an environment that creates a path for our students to become accomplished leaders who, like Dr. Black, embark on a life of service. It is our honor to welcome her back to campus to share her wisdom and experiences with our graduates.”

During her more than two decades of service as a military nurse, Black focused on building a new generation of leaders and healthcare professionals using leading evidence-based clinical and professional practices. Eventually rising to the rank of colonel, Black’s experiences include multiple assignments and nursing roles while stationed in Baumholder, Germany; Baghdad, Iraq; the Republic of Korea; Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; and Fort Belvoir, Virginia, before retiring in 2018.

“I am honored to be returning to Auburn to deliver the commencement address this fall,” Black said. “Auburn will always hold a special place in my life as the beginning of this amazing journey I’ve been on. It’s humbling to be asked to speak to the graduates who are in the early stages of pursuing their dreams just as I was in 1994.”

Following her distinguished military career, Black has continued to support several national organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. In addition to helping raise funds for the national Jack and Jill Foundation and Sickle Cell Association, Black remains an active member of several professional organizations, including the Virginia Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau Inc.

During her career, Black was recognized as the Fort Hood Nurse of the Quarter, a two-time Meritorious Service Medal honoree and received the Army Commendation Medal and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. In 2020, Black was honored with the Auburn Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Achievement Award.

In addition to a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Auburn, Black holds a Master of Science in adult health nursing from the University of Texas at Austin and a Doctor of Nursing Practice in nursing administration from Vanderbilt University. She is also a board-certified Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Auburn’s commencement on Friday, Dec. 9, showcases the university’s graduation traditions, including the keynote address delivered by Black. All graduates must attend and arrive at Neville Arena by 4 p.m.

Families and guests are welcome to attend and can access the arena beginning at 3 p.m. A complete list of safety protocols and other information is available on the commencement website.

Fall graduates who need to order keepsake regalia should place orders through the Auburn University Bookstore. Early regalia orders can be picked up at the bookstore the week of Oct. 31-Nov. 4. All other orders can be picked up during the week of final exams, Dec. 5-9. All graduates participating in graduation ceremonies must wear proper regalia.

Additional information is available on the commencement website and information will be posted on the Auburn University commencement Facebook and Instagram accounts. For questions regarding commencement, please email

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.

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