James E. Nevels, founder and chairman of the investment and financial advisory firm The Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia, will deliver the keynote address at Williamson College of the Trades’ Commencement at 2 p.m., Friday, June 2.

Nevels will inspire the Class of 2017 as they receive associate in specialized technology degrees or craftsman diplomas and are sent into the world of work.

In 1991, Nevels, who was born in Greensboro, Ala., in a working-class family, founded The Swarthmore Group, which has grown to become one of the largest minority-owned investment advisory firms in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This growth came about from the Group’s commitment to professional trust and concrete investment results.

Nevels, who has more than 36 years experience in the securities and investment industry, is also lead independent director of the Hershey Company’s board of directors (chairman from 2009-2015); and on the boards of First Data, WestRock, and Alcoa Corp.

He has served as chair and board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; and on the boards of the Hershey Trust Company, the Milton Hershey School, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, MMG Insurance Co., The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Tasty Baking Co., the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and many others.

Nevels was appointed by President George Bush to a 3-year term, from 2004-2007, on the Advisory Committee to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., and served as chairman from 2005-2007.

In 2001, he was appointed by Pennsylvania’s governor as chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and served through September 2007, overseeing the turnaround of the Philadelphia School System, then the ninth largest school district in the country.

In 1998, he was appointed as a member of the 3-person board of control of the Chester-Upland School District to administer the $65 million budget of the financially distressed school district. Through his efforts, the quality of education offered by the school district improved.

Nevels is an honors (cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) graduate of Bucknell University with an A.B. degree in political science and philosophy; an M.B.A. degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and a J.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He also has four honorary degrees.

Among his numerous awards and honors are: the New York Stock Exchange’s Governance Services Inaugural Leadership Awards Non-executive Chairman of the Year Nomination (2014), the National Association of Corporate Directors’ Directorship 100 Awards Honoree (2014), the American Jewish Committee’s Civic Achievement Award (2005), Bucknell University’s Humanitarian Service Alumni Award (2009), the Emma Sloat Rendell Education Award (2007), the Thurgood Marshal Scholarship Fund Award of Excellence (2005), the Musser Excellence in Leadership Award  (2004), Philadelphia Tribune’s “One of Philadelphia’s Most Influential African Americans” (2004), and the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia’s Atlas Award (2003).