Jennifer Coolidge to give WashU’s 163rd Commencement address

Jennifer Coolidge, an award-winning actor known for her numerous iconic roles in film and on television, will deliver the 2024 Commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis, according to Chancellor Andrew D. Martin.

Jennifer Coolidge

Martin made the announcement during a toast Wednesday, March 27, in Brookings Quadrangle to members of the Class of 2024, which includes undergraduate, graduate and professional degree candidates.

The university’s 163rd Commencement ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. Monday, May 13, on Francis Olympic Field on the Danforth Campus.

During the ceremony, Coolidge will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. She will address more than 3,400 members of the Class of 2024 and their friends and family members.

“I’m excited that the members of the WashU Class of 2024 — some of the most brilliant, confident, principled and inspiring individuals with unique and unstoppable spirits — will get to hear from the inspiring, endearing and unstoppable Jennifer Coolidge,” Martin said.

“I have no doubt that Ms. Coolidge, a multiple award-winning actress with decades of scene-stealing, iconic roles in film and on TV, will provide the graduates with a witty, uplifting and memorable speech.

“Our students certainly all deserve to enjoy a few laughs together after putting in such serious work over these past few years,” Martin said.

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

  • Andrew C. Chan, MD, PhD, WashU alumnus and former faculty member, physician and researcher, and senior vice president of research-biology at Genentech, Doctor of Medicine;
  • Bethany L. Ehlmann, WashU alumna, Rhodes Scholar and professor of planetary science and the Allen V. C. Davis and Lenabelle Davis Leadership Chair and director of the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology, Doctor of Science;
  • Kenneth S. Kranzberg, supporter of civic, social and arts organizations and chairman emeritus of Kranson Industries and TricorBraun, Doctor of Fine Arts;
  • Nancy S. Kranzberg, WashU alumna, philanthropist, broadcaster and passionate supporter of the arts, Doctor of Fine Arts; and
  • Honorary Grand Marshal Stuart Greenbaum, the Bank of America Professor Emeritus of Managerial Leadership and former dean of Olin Business School at Washington University.

During the class toast, Martin also announced the two graduating students who were selected to deliver talks during the ceremony. Senior Alejandro Ramirez, a candidate for a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies from Arts & Sciences, was selected by a committee of students, faculty and staff after an application process to be the undergraduate student speaker.

Vijay Ramani, vice provost for graduate education and the Roma B. & Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished University Professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering, selected Patricia Maurer as the graduate student speaker. Maurer is a candidate for a doctorate in Germanic languages and literatures from Arts & Sciences.

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.

Return to Friday schedule in May 2026

University leadership has decided that beginning in 2026, the all-university Commencement ceremony will return to its pre-COVID schedule of occurring on the third Friday in May.

The Class of 2026 all-university ceremony will be held Friday, May 15, and the Class of 2027 ceremony will be Friday, May 21.

Next year’s all-university ceremony will still be Monday, May 12, 2025.

For more information about Commencement, visit the Commencement website.

About Jennifer Coolidge

Jennifer Coolidge has been a Hollywood mainstay ever since playing Stifler’s mom in the 1999 comedy classic film “American Pie.

Coolidge recently garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal of the wealthy, unstable and oblivious fan favorite character Tanya McQuoid in HBO’s “The White Lotus.” Her portrayal earned her a 2022 and 2023 Primetime Emmy Award; a 2022 and 2023 Critics Choice Award; a 2021 Gotham Award nomination; a 2023 Screen Actors Guild Award win and 2022 nomination; and a 2023 Golden Globe win and 2022 nomination.

Coolidge will next be seen in Dito Montiel’s “Riff Raff” opposite Bill Murray, Ed Harris and Lewis Pullman. The crime comedy film centers on a former criminal whose ordinary life is thrown upside down when his family shows up for a long-awaited reckoning.

She recently wrapped production for the “Minecraft” movie based on the bestselling video game of all time with 300 million copies sold and nearly 140 million monthly active players. The film will be directed by Jared Hess, and Coolidge will star opposite Jack Black and Jason Momoa. 

WashU graduating students show excitement over announcement of their Commencement speaker
Members of the Class of 2024 react to the announcement of Jennifer Coolidge as their Commencement speaker during the class toast in Brookings Quadrangle. (Photo: Danny Reise/Washington University)

Coolidge recently starred in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series “The Watcher,” opposite Naomi Watts. In 2020, Coolidge starred opposite Carey Mulligan in the Academy Award-nominated film “Promising Young Woman.”

Coolidge is beloved for her role as Paulette in the iconic film “Legally Blonde,” opposite Reese Witherspoon, and well-known for her frequent collaborations with director Christopher Guest in films such as “Best in Show” (2000), “A Mighty Wind” (2003) and “For Your Consideration” (2006).

Originally from Boston, Coolidge earned a bachelor’s degree in theater in 1985 from Emerson College in Boston and is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She is a nine-year veteran of The Groundlings comedy troupe in Los Angeles.