John Grisham to speak at UNC graduation

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has chosen John Grisham to speak at its 2010 spring Commencement on May 9, university officials announced.

The program will begin at 9:30 a.m. in UNC’s Kenan Stadium.

“John [Grisham] is an engaging speaker who will have a profound message for our graduates and their families,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a news release. “His prowess with the written and spoken word makes him an excellent choice for a commencement speaker. He has an inspirational story to share.”

Grisham, a Mississippi native, is no stranger to UNC. He has spoken at two North Carolina Literary Festivals held on the campus, one in 1998 and the most recent one in September.

In addition, Grisham’s daughter Shea is a 2008 graduate of UNC. She earned a degree in elementary education and teaches in Raleigh.

The Daily Tar Heel also reported that Grisham’s wife Renee is listed as a junior English major who could graduate in May and that the two bought a condo in Chapel Hill in 2008. University officials would not comment on Renee Grisham’s status at the university.

Meggie Staffiera, a Moorestown, N.J., senior and UNC’s senior class president, said she is thrilled Grisham was chosen to speak at the spring commencement.

“I think he’s a great pick,” Staffiera said. “The fact that he has so many ties to the University of North Carolina makes him an exceptional choice.”

Staffiera said she admires Grisham for what she described as a “full career” in which he has gone out into the world and done great things, but was comfortable enough with his success to return home.

“I think the message I get from him is that no matter how far away you go and no matter how many big things you do, you can always come back home,” Staffiera said. “His wife is also graduating with our class, which is special.”

In addition, Staffiera said Grisham’s fans cross multiple generations and will appeal to the graduates and their parents.

“I’m excited. He doesn’t usually give speeches like this,” Staffiera said. “It won’t be a cookie-cutter speech. I think his words are going to be exciting and original. That makes a difference.”

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