The University of Virginia announced that best-selling novelist and Charlottesville resident John Grisham will be the commencement speaker at the University’s 178th Final Exercises on May 20, 2007. Grisham will speak on the historic Lawn at 10 a.m., following the traditional academic procession.
Grisham’s name first surfaced when the Public Occasions subcommittee of the University’s Commencements and Convocations Committee made a list of possible speakers, according to Alexander G. Gilliam, Jr., secretary to the Board of Visitors. The list was then reviewed by University President John T. Casteen, III.
The subcommittee “meets twice a year: one time to draw up lists of possible speakers for the fall convocation and one for the [graduation]” Gilliam said.
Gilliam said the subcommittee consisted of representatives such as the Fourth Year Trustees President, the president of Student Council, the chair of the Honor Committee, the chair of the University Judiciary Committee and various other students who were recommended by Student Council and Casteen.
After receiving this student input, the president makes the final decision of who will be invited to speak, he added.
Gilliam said the well-known author of 18 thriller novels emerged from the preliminary crop of approximately ten candidates because of his close ties to the University.
“He had a son who finished here in 2005,” Gilliam said. “He has been interested in the University and [supported] various things at the University.”
Casteen praised the committee for its selection.
“We are delighted that Mr. Grisham will speak during Final Exercises for the Class of 2007,” said John T. Casteen III. “He is a great choice, he has both a subtle sense of humor and a clear moral vision, and he makes sense.”
“Final Exercises is a time of contemplation and celebration for our students. Having Mr. Grisham as speaker will make this a truly memorable day,” Casteen added.
Fourth Year Trustees President E. Ross Baird said the decision to appoint Grisham as the commencement speaker reflected students’ opinions of the possible candidates.
“I think all of the students on the committee were advocates for the speakers they knew [their peers] wanted,” Baird said.