Sterling K. Brown to give WashU’s 162nd Commencement address

Sterling K. Brown, a St. Louis native and an award-winning actor and producer, will deliver the 2023 Commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis, according to Chancellor Andrew D. Martin.

Martin made the announcement during a toast March 28 in Brookings Quadrangle to members of the Class of 2023, which includes undergraduate, graduate and professional degree candidates.

Sterling K. Brown headshot

The university’s 162nd Commencement ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. Monday, May 15, on Francis Olympic Field on the Danforth Campus.

During the ceremony, Brown will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree. He will address more than 3,400 members of the Class of 2023 and their friends and family members.

“I am thrilled that acclaimed actor and proud St. Louis native Sterling K. Brown will address Washington University graduates and their guests at Commencement,” Martin said. 

“Sterling’s stellar career, his commitment to both his field and his family, as well as his support of organizations, particularly those in his hometown that lift up young people, serve as a wonderful example to our graduates. The Washington University community looks forward to welcoming Sterling back to St. Louis.”

Martin also announced the four other honorary degree recipients and the Commencement ceremony’s honorary grand marshal:

  • Emerita Trustee Maxine Clark, the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop, philanthropist and mentor to many Washington University students, doctor of laws;
  • Anthony Fauci, MD, a renowned physician-scientist and immunologist, doctor of science;
  • Alphonso Jackson, a Washington University School of Law alumnus and former U.S. secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, doctor of laws;
  • Paul Michael Lutzeler, the Rosa May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at Washington University, doctor of humanities; and
  • Honorary Grand Marshal Cynthia Weese, a renowned architect and former dean of the School of Architecture at Washington University.

During the class toast, Martin also announced the two graduating students who were selected to deliver talks during the ceremony. Senior Samantha Grace Kaiser was selected by a committee of students, faculty and staff after an application process to be the undergraduate student speaker.

Kaiser is a candidate for a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from the McKelvey School of Engineering and a joint degree major in environmental analysis from Arts & Sciences.

Vijay Ramani, vice provost for graduate education and the Roma B. & Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished University Professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering, selected Nicholas Ethan Armstrong as the graduate student speaker. Armstrong is a candidate for a juris doctor and a joint certificate in public interest law, both from the School of Law.

Like last year, the Commencement ceremony will be followed by a festival stretching from Francis Field on the west end of the Danforth Campus to Tisch Park on the east end. The festival will feature lawn games, photo booths, live entertainment and food from St. Louis eateries.

For more information about the ceremony, visit the Commencement website.

About Sterling K. Brown

Three-time Emmy Award-winning actor and producer Sterling K. Brown is best known for starring in NBC’s critically acclaimed drama series “This Is Us.” For his role as Randall Pearson, Mr. Brown has received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, as well as five consecutive nominations in the category. He also received a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Drama Series, becoming the first African American actor to win his category in the award show’s 75-year history.

Brown also made history by becoming the first African American actor to receive the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama. In addition, he received two SAG awards alongside his cast for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, as well as the African American Film Critics Association Best Actor award for two consecutive years. In 2018, Brown was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world.

His film “Biosphere” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and will release in July 2023. He also is soon to be seen in and producing Hulu’s limited series “Washington Black,” an adaptation of Esi Edugyan’s novel, and is in production on the Netflix film “Atlas,” opposite Jennifer Lopez. In 2022, he starred in and produced “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. He received an NAACP Image Award nomination for his role.

In 2021, Brown executive produced and co-hosted the OWN television special “Honoring Our Kings: OWN Celebrates Black Fatherhood,” alongside Oprah Winfrey. He also narrated CNN’s six-part docuseries “Lincoln: Divided We Stand,” receiving an Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator, and contributed his voice to the Netflix project “Amend: The Fight for America.”

He also starred in the Emmy-nominated election-themed reunion “A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote”; the A24 family drama “Waves”; Disney’s “Frozen 2”; and the Emmy-winning Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” earning a 2020 Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

In 2018, Brown created Indian Meadows Productions. The company’s chief mandate is to champion diversity through the development and production of entertaining, educational and inclusive projects across multiple forms of media, including film, broadcast, cable and streaming. In addition to “Washington Black,” Indian Meadows is producing the action film “Shadow Force” with Kerry Washington’s company Simpson Street for Lionsgate, the action film “Coyote Blue” and an untitled action-comedy with Randall Park for Amazon Studios.

Brown co-starred in Marvel’s Academy Award-winning 2018 film “Black Panther,” earning a SAG Award alongside the ensemble cast. He also starred in Fox’s sci-fi thriller “The Predator,” the action film “Hotel Artemis” and the drama “Marshall,” receiving an NAACP Image Award nomination for his performance. His additional film credits include “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “The Rhythm Section,” “Angry Birds 2,” “Our Idiot Brother,” “The Suspect,” “Righteous Kill,” “Trust the Man” and “Spaceman.”

For his portrayal of prosecutor Christopher Darden in FX’s 2016 “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” he won both an Emmy Award and Critics’ Choice Award in 2016 and was nominated for a Golden Globe, SAG Award and NAACP Image Award.

For seven years, he was in the critically acclaimed Lifetime series “Army Wives.” Other television credits include hosting “Saturday Night Live” (2018), “Insecure,” “Supernatural,” “Person of Interest,” “Masters of Sex,” “The Mentalist,” “Castle,” “Criminal Minds” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” for which he received an Emmy nomination.

Brown also has performed in a variety of staged shows, including both the New York and Los Angeles productions of “Father Comes Home From the Wars” (Parts 1, 2 & 3), for which he won an NAACP Theatre Award and was nominated for an Ovation Award. His additional stage credits include “Macbeth,” “The Brother/Sister Plays” and “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” opposite Al Pacino.

In the animated space, Brown will next star in the upcoming preschool series based upon the 2011 Caldecott Honor-winning book series “Interrupting Chicken,” written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, being released in November 2023. Brown also provided his voice talent for three seasons in the Netflix series “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.” He recently guest starred in season four of the Netflix series “Big Mouth” and season two of the Hulu series “Solar Opposites.”

Brown grew up in Olivette, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School in 1994. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in drama from Stanford University, before earning his master’s degree in fine arts from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Because of his strong connection to his hometown, Brown has lent his support to St. Louis organizations, including the Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club and local theaters struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also recorded a series of videos promoting St. Louis tourism. “We have quality human beings that come from this place, and I couldn’t be prouder to call this my home,” he said in one of the videos.

He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

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