MEDIA ADVISORY: Washington University Commencement ceremonies May 20-21

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to virtually deliver address to Class of 2021

WHAT: Washington University’s 160th Commencement ceremonies. To allow for in-person ceremonies, the traditional universitywide ceremony will be broken up into eight ceremonies over two days.

The university will bestow degrees on more 3,200 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. More than 2,500 graduating students will attend the ceremonies in person.

WHO: National Basketball Association great and social justice advocate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will deliver the Commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

Abdul-Jabbar’s address to the Class of 2021, which will be video recorded in advance to accommodate the multiple ceremonies, will be shown on large screens on Francis Field for those who are attending in person and livestreamed to graduates who are studying remotely during the spring.

The five other honorary degree recipients, who all will be recognized virtually, and their degrees are:

  • Christopher S. “Kit” Bond, the former U.S. senator who earned a reputation over his 40 years of distinguished public service as a skilled statesman able to build coalitions and effectively work across party lines, doctor of laws;
  • Richard H. Helmholz, the Ruth Wyatt Rosenson Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, a distinguished legal and history scholar with an expertise in medieval and early modern law, doctor of laws;
  • Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and Holocaust survivor who has dedicated her life to fighting racism and intolerance and promoting Holocaust education and human rights, doctor of humanities;
  • Stuart A. Kornfeld, MD, the David C. and Betty Farrell Professor of Medicine at Washington University’s School of Medicine, a renowned physician-scientist, doctor of science; and
  • Shannon Watts, founder of the nation’s largest grassroots group fighting against gun violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, doctor of humanities.

WHERE: Francis Olympic Field, at Forsyth Boulevard and Olympian Way, near Big Bend Boulevard

WHEN: Thursday, May 20, through Friday, May 21, 2021. For a list of ceremonies and times, visit the Commencement website.

NOTE: Please call Sue Killenberg McGinn at 314-603-6008 if you plan to cover any of the ceremonies. Media credentials will be required.

Per guidance from the university’s COVID Monitoring Team and the local health department, both of which advise wearing masks in large group situations, the university still will require masking for all guests. 

MEDIA PARKING: Parking will be available on the surface parking lot directly east of the Athletic Complex. Enter from Forsyth Boulevard at Olympian Way.

Interview some graduates

Among the local graduates are Meris Saric, a Bosnian refugee who studied political science and hopes to one day work  for the U.S. State Department; Mackenzie Hines-Wilson, a first-generation college student who studied philosophy-neuroscience-psychology in Arts & Sciences and won a prestigious fellowship at the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine; and David Blount, who, as a master’s of social work student at the Brown School, served City Garden Montessori School, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, Beyond Housing, and Rise Community Development. 

Other graduates include Leah Wren Hardgrove, a blind student who studied at Olin Business School and will work at Google to make their products more accessible, and Summer McKenna, a ROTC cadet and Rhodes Scholarship finalist who supported refugees in the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District.

Saric and Hines-Wilson are members of the first cohort of Washington University’s College Prep Program, which prepares talented, local high school students for college.

To learn more about these degree candidates and others, visit Class Acts.

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