Ryan Gravel, an urban planner who helped launch the Atlanta BeltLine, has been named this year’s keynote speaker for Class Day, according to Director of University Events Suzanne Eden-Antola.
Class Day, which is set for May 10, is a student-organized ceremony that traditionally occurs the Thursday before the commencement ceremony for the baccalaureate degree candidates in the College of Arts and Sciences, Goizueta Business School, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and the School of Medicine. The ceremony involves the class gift, awards and a keynote speech, according to the Class Day website.
Gravel’s 1999 master’s thesis, completed when he was a student at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), served as “the original vision” for the group of trails and parks now known as the Atlanta BeltLine, according to the BeltLine’s website. The BeltLine, formerly a railway corridor that ran around Atlanta, is undergoing a “sustainable redevelopment” project that is anticipated to be completed by 2030. When it is finished, the BeltLine is expected to include “a planned loop of 33 miles of multi-use trail and 2,000 acres of parks,” the website said.
In 2016, Gravel resigned from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership over concerns of affordability and equity along the trails and greenspace, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Gravel also founded Sixpitch, an urban design consulting company, in 2015.
The Georgia Tech graduate serves on the Urban Land Institute, Atlanta’s Livable Communities Council and is a board member for the Partnership for Southern Equity and the MillionMile Greenway, according to his website.
Zuhra Aziz (18C) said she appreciated Gravel’s work for the BeltLine.
“As a native Atlantan, I think it’s pretty cool that we will have a speaker who invested his skill into developing his city,” Aziz said. “He’s a homegrown success story who cares about his community enough to build parts of it and fight for everyone to be able to enjoy it, not just the upper class.”
Shloka Parvatrao (18C) echoed Aziz’s sentiments.
“I think a lot of Emory students have a connection to the BeltLine … and it’ll be nice to see someone who’s had such a positive impact on the Atlanta community,” Parvatrao said.
The Boisfeuillet Jones Medals, Brit Katz Senior Appreciation Award and Knights of Emory Spirit Awards are bestowed upon graduating seniors at Class Day.
Last year, “Orange Is the New Black” actress Jackie Cruz gave the Class Day address.