‘Pinky’ Cole Hayes Named Savannah State University’s 2024 Commencement Speaker

“Pinky” Cole Hayes, founder of the immensely popular Atlanta-based Slutty Vegan restaurant chain and 2023 TIME100 Next honoree, is returning to Savannah State University (SSU) this spring to deliver the commencement speech to the class of 2024.

Cole Hayes visited the university in the fall as part of her book tour for her autobiographical book, “I Hope You Fail,” which details the trials and tribulations she overcame to become the successful owner of 14 restaurants in Georgia, New York, Texas and Alabama in just six years. As the title implies, success has not been easy. Her father was sentenced to prison the day she was born. Her first restaurant burned down. Just as her innovative plant-based burger restaurant venture was gaining popularity, a pandemic rocked the world.

“I had the privilege of presenting my book at Savannah State and personally shared with students how some of my most significant failures transformed into invaluable lessons and triumphs,” Cole Hayes said. “I’m thrilled for the chance to address the Class of 2024 as they embark on their next life chapters.”

Savannah State Interim President Cynthia Alexander said the university invited Cole Hayes back because the message of her book resonated with SSU students.

“I think her life story represents the path that many of our students have taken just to get to Savannah State,” Alexander said. “As these students navigate the path of life they will have successes and struggles, but just like Mrs. Cole Hayes, they need to know they can conquer and thrive in the midst of challenges.”

“Thriving in Change” will be the theme of Cole Hayes’s speech on Friday, May 3, 2024 at T.A. Wright Stadium, 4437 Skidaway Rd. Cole will address 350 SSU graduates, the largest graduating class in the last several years.

“It is always an honor to speak to the next generation of leaders,” Cole Hayes said, “and I am excited to be the commencement speaker for the Savannah State class of 2024 for that very reason – they are some of our fiercest leaders of tomorrow.”

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