Pharrell Williams to be keynote speaker for 2019 valedictory exercises

Award-winning singer and Virginia native will deliver speech to graduating class May 17


Pharrell Williams performed at the Concert for Charlottesville in September 2017.

The Cavalier Daily staff | Cavalier Daily

Virginia Beach native and award-winning singer Pharrell Williams will be returning to Charlottesville next month as the keynote speaker at the University’s 190th Valedictory Exercises.

Williams will address the graduating Class of 2019 May 17 at 3 p.m. on the Lawn, the day before the Finals Exercises May 18 and 19 in which Dr. B. Cameron Webb, a renowned doctor and lawyer, and School of Nursing Dean Dorrie Fontaine are giving the commencement address. Valediction is free and open to the public, whereas Finals Exercises require a ticket for seating.

Williams, who has won 13 Grammy Awards, performed at Scott Stadium in September 2017 for “A Concert for Charlottesville: An Evening of Music and Unity” in response to the white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville just a month earlier. The free show also included the Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton.

During his set, Williams notably dropped to both knees in protest against President Trump’s criticism of NFL athletes who kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.

Williams also co-produced and co-scored the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures,” which was written by best-selling author Margot Lee Shetterly, a 1991 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce.

Last year, the keynote speaker at the Valedictory Exercises was NFL player and U.Va. alumnus Chris Long and in 2017 was Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

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