Dominique Dawes, three-time Olympian and Olympic Gymnastic gold medalist, will deliver the University of Maryland’s winter commencement address, the university announced Thursday. 

Dawes, who graduated from this university in 2002 after taking time off to compete, expressed her excitement to honor the winter graduates during the Dec. 20 virtual ceremony in a university release.

“The perseverance of the entire Terp community through this enduring pandemic is inspiring,” Dawes said in the release. “I hope to encourage students and faculty as they celebrate this milestone and prepare for what is next.”

A Silver Spring native, Dawes began gymnastics at the age of six. She competed in her first international meet in Australia in 1989 as a 12-year-old, and made her Olympics debut for the U.S. at the 1992 games in Barcelona, helping the team win a bronze medal. 

In the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Dawes was part of the “Magnificent Seven” — a historic gold medal Olympic team — and became the first African American woman to win an individual event medal for her floor routine, according to the university release. And after helping Team USA win another bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, she cemented her place in the U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame. 

[UMD winter commencement, classes to be held online]

Dawes studied communication at this university and eventually used her degree to become an Olympic games broadcaster and analyst for outlets such as Yahoo Sports and Fox Sports. She also used her experience on and off the mat to become a motivational speaker, focusing on fitness, health and teamwork. 

In 2010, former President Barack Obama named Dawes co-chair of the President’s Council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition. In this role, she worked closely with then-First Lady Michelle Obama in the “Let’s Move!” initiative. 

Nowadays, Dawes spends her time in Montgomery County at the Dominique Dawes Gymnastics & Ninja Academy, which she founded and owns. 

Dawes acts as a role model for what Terps can accomplish both locally and globally, university President Darryll Pines said in the university release. 

“We are delighted to welcome her back to her alma mater to share her story and help commemorate this special occasion for our graduates,” Pines said in the release.