Former Sec­re­tary of State Colin L. Powell will deliver North­eastern University’s 110th com­mence­ment address on May 4, 2012. Joseph E. Aoun, pres­i­dent of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, broke the news on Twitter last night.

The retired four-​​star gen­eral will receive an hon­orary doc­torate during the morning cer­e­mony, which will include 20,000 under­grad­uate stu­dents, family mem­bers, friends and uni­ver­sity leaders.

Any single chapter in Colin Powell’s life would be con­sid­ered a dis­tin­guished career in public ser­vice,” Pres­i­dent Aoun said. “But taken as a whole, Gen­eral Powell’s life — as a mil­i­tary leader, diplomat and author — is an extra­or­di­nary record of lead­er­ship, com­mit­ment and ser­vice. It will inspire each and every one of our grad­u­ates. We are hon­ored to wel­come Gen­eral Powell to the North­eastern family.”

Fol­lowing his more than 40-​​year career in public ser­vice — including, most notably, his tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and sec­re­tary of state — Powell has emerged today as a post-​​partisan leader who speaks out fre­quently on issues of domestic and for­eign policy. His forth­coming book, “It Worked for Me,” will be pub­lished in May.

I’ve spent much of my career fighting for ideals such as freedom, social mobility and global coop­er­a­tion,” Powell said. “Today, ful­filling these aspi­ra­tions requires the con­tri­bu­tions of globally-​​focused uni­ver­si­ties — often through the work of their grad­u­ates. I am hon­ored to be part of this com­mence­ment and to help launch Northeastern’s newest grad­u­ates into a world that needs their con­sid­er­able energy and talents.”

Powell has helped found the Colin L. Powell Center for Lead­er­ship and Ser­vice at the City Col­lege of New York, and also serves as the founder and chairman emer­itus of the America’s Promise Alliance, a cross-​​sector part­ner­ship of cor­po­ra­tions, non­profits, faith-​​based orga­ni­za­tions and advo­cacy groups com­mitted to improving the lives of chil­dren nationally.

The name Colin Powell is syn­ony­mous with achieve­ment on a global scale,” said Sy Stern­berg, chairman of the North­eastern Board of Trustees. “This is pre­cisely what’s hap­pening today at North­eastern through co-​​op and our other sig­na­ture pro­grams. Gen­eral Powell is the ideal person to inspire our grad­u­ates — and the whole North­eastern com­mu­nity — at this year’s commencement.”

The son of immi­grants from Jamaica, Powell was born in Harlem, N.Y., and raised in the South Bronx. He earned a bachelor’s degree from City Col­lege of New York and then embarked on a rapid rise through the mil­i­tary ranks. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam in the 1960s, during which he was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He has received numerous mil­i­tary and civilian dec­o­ra­tions, including two Pres­i­den­tial Medals of Freedom.

In the 1970s, Powell served the Carter admin­is­tra­tion as an assis­tant to the deputy sec­re­tary of defense. In the 1980s, he was appointed national secu­rity advisor under Pres­i­dent Ronald Reagan, and later became chairman of the Joint Chiefs for Pres­i­dent George H. W. Bush. He con­tinued to serve in this role during the Clinton admin­is­tra­tion, until his retire­ment from the mil­i­tary in 1993.

In 2001, Pres­i­dent George W. Bush appointed Powell to be sec­re­tary of state, earning him, at the time, the dis­tinc­tion of the highest post ever held by an African Amer­ican in the United States government.

Powell fol­lows Henri A. Ter­meer, former chief exec­u­tive officer and chairman of Gen­zyme Cor­po­ra­tion, who deliv­ered the university’s 2011 com­mence­ment speech. In 2010, North­eastern hosted speaker Ken­neth I. Chenault, chairman and chief exec­u­tive officer of Amer­ican Express Com­pany, and in 2009, phil­an­thropist and inter­na­tional busi­ness leader Ken­neth Cole deliv­ered the com­mence­ment address.

Prior North­eastern com­mence­ment speakers have included John F. Kennedy, Mikhail Gor­bachev, Stephen Breyer, Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright.