Commencement Speaker

TOM JOYNER

Legendary radio personality, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Tom Joyner is one of the most recognized media icons of today. Host of the nationally syndicated radio program The Tom Joyner Morning Show, Tom empowers, educates and entertains nearly eight million listeners each week in more than 105 cities nationwide.

From Humble Beginnings to Radio Vet


The younger of two sons, Tom grew up in a close-knit family in Tuskegee, Alabama. His mother was a secretary for the military, and his father was a famed Tuskegee Airman. Similar to many blacks that lived in the Deep South during these turbulent times, Tom was actively passionate about fighting for civil rights change and justice in his community. He participated in many weekly protests, including the "Tuskegee Boycott” (taking place during the Montgomery Bus Boycott) and another demonstration where a local radio station refused to play "black" music. Eventually the station manager relented and Tom (naturally) nominated himself for the position.

Upon earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Tuskegee Institute in 1970, Tom immediately began his radio career. He started at WRMA-AM in Montgomery, Alabama and eventually worked his way to WLOK-AM in Memphis, Tennessee, KWK-AM in St. Louis, Missouri, and KKDA-FM in Dallas, Texas. Tom’s distinct humor and energy attracted both audiences and opportunities, ultimately taking the radio personality to Chicago. While in the windy city, Tom created a whirlwind of excitement in urban radio accepting lucrative positions at Chicago’s WJPC-FM, WGCI-FM, WVON-AM, and WBMX-FM.

The Rise of the Fly Jock


In the mid 1980s, Tom was offered a MORNING drive time position at KKDA in Dallas and an AFTERNOON spot at WGCI in Chicago. Any normal human being would have chosen one position – but Tom chose both! His visionary plan was to fly thousands of miles everyday (Monday-Friday) between Dallas and Chicago. And because of his long hours and vast amount of time spent in the air, Tom received the affectionate nicknames "The Fly Jock" and "The Hardest Working Man in Radio". Tom continued this insane (to most) commute for eight years, collecting more than seven million frequent flyer miles, while gaining national publicity and higher ratings.

The Tom Joyner Morning Show

In 1994, Tom convinced entertainment powerhouse ABC Radio Networks to take his captivating style of radio nationwide. Impressed with his determination, credentials and following, ABC successfully launched The Tom Joyner Morning Show (TJMS) into national syndication.

Over the years, Tom has undoubtedly taken his radio program to unexpected heights using his influence to inspire and activate listeners daily. Catering specifically to the African-American audience, Tom’s current show features co-hosts Sybil Wilkes, J. Anthony Brown and a host of other personalities and analysts, including Roland Martin, Jacque Reid, Don Lemon, Sherri Shepherd and Gary Owen.

Because of its reach and vast, responsive audience, the TJMS has become a hot spot for celebs, companies and national leaders/politicians hoping to connect with the community. Both President Barack Obama and 2016 Presidential Candidate Hilary Clinton have been frequent guests on the show. And who did McDonald’s approach to target their African-American customers? No one other than Tom, of course! In a national TV commercial that premiered in October 2015, TJMS hosts Tom, Sybil and J. (along with D.L. Hughley Show cast members) were featured in an entertaining ad to promote the fast food chain’s new, all day breakfast menu.

Tom’s broadcast is extended through a digital app, leading lifestyle website BlackAmericaweb.com and popular consumer events. The Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage Cruise and Tom Joyner Family Reunion attract people annually for an unforgettable experience featuring LIVE concerts, theme nights, seminars, celebrities and more.

Super Serving the Community

Well-known for his dedicated philanthropy and community activism, Tom has led national, successful awareness campaigns on voter registration laws, family/health initiatives, and minority discrimination. Never one to forget his roots, Tom created The Tom Joyner Foundation to help keep students in historically black colleges and universities. Since its inception, Tom’s foundation has raised more than $60 million.

In 2014, Tom embarked on his Meet Every Listener campaign to do just that! His love and commitment for the community sparked this tour’s creation, which has made stops in more than 40 cities nationwide over the past two years (2014-2015).

Awards and Recognition

Throughout his distinguished career, Tom has received numerous accolades and awards. He was presented with a Radio Hall of Fame award, NAACP Image Award, Impact Magazine's "Joe Loris Award" for Excellence in Broadcasting and Billboard's "Best Urban Contemporary Air Personality" award. Impact Magazine's "Best DJ of the Year Award" was complimentarily renamed "The Tom Joyner Award" because he received it so many times.

In 2015 alone, Tom received the BET Humanitarian Award, Denny’s Community Impact Award and was recognized by the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. There, he was awarded the Septima P. Clark Excellence in Black Education Award – named for the late South Carolina civil rights activist.

In addition, Tom has an honorary degree from every HBCU in the continental US and US Virgin Islands.