3. Greensboro

It’s college graduation season in the Triad, when area schools compete to see who can get the fanciest commencement speakers. Greensboro scored a couple of bigwigs, with US Rep. John Lewis at NC A&T University and state Attorney General Roy Cooper at Elon Law. But middling contenders like Cone Health CEO Emeritus Tim Rice at UNCG, Ghanian motivational speaker Emmanuel Dei-Tumi at Greensboro College and the CEO of something called DiversityInc. at Bennett College pull down the curve. Beloved former Guilford College Vice President Aaron Fetrow doesn’t do much to up the quotient.

2. High Point

High Point’s No. 2 position comes on the strength of High Point University’s booking of Tom Brokaw as this year’s commencement speaker, a genuine whale. Not even the relatively obscure Gary C. Royals, who delivered the lecture for Laurel University, could pull the city down in the ranking.

1. Winston-Salem

The Camel City absolutely killed it this year, with high-profile addresses by hip-hop artist Common at Winston-Salem State University and Stephen Colbert at Wake Forest. But there’s more: Salem College booked Dr. Freda C. Lewis Hall, who as chief medical officer for Pfizer has a bigger job than both of them. And UNC School of the Arts landed Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. That’s a pretty big get.

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