Higher Education News

Basketball Hall of Famer Abdul-Jabbar will deliver Commencement address to Class of 2021

Kareem Adul-Jabbar headshot
Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, social justice advocate and highest-scoring NBA player of all time Kareem Adul-Jabbar will deliver Washington University’s 160th Commencement address in May. The university will award him an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

NBA great and social justice advocate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will deliver the 2021 Commencement address for Washington University in St. Louis, Chancellor Andrew D. Martin announced in a video message to members of the class.

With guidance and approval from St. Louis regional health authorities, the university plans to hold in-person Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021 on May 20 and 21 on the Danforth Campus.

Due to limitations on gatherings and crowd sizes due to COVID-19, however, the university will host multiple, smaller ceremonies on Francis Olympic Field in place of the traditional universitywide Commencement ceremony in Brookings Quadrangle. There will be a maximum of 500 graduates at each in-person ceremony, with two guests allowed per graduate.

Abdul-Jabbar’s address to the Class of 2021, which will be video recorded in advance to accommodate the multiple ceremonies, will be shown on large screens on Francis Field for those who are attending in person and livestreamed to graduates who are studying remotely during the spring. The university is expecting to host eight ceremonies.

“I am thrilled that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an inspiration both on and off the basketball court — since before and long after his phenomenal athletic career — will be addressing our graduates,” Martin said.

“A Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and a prolific author, in addition to being the highest-scoring NBA player of all time, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar has used his platform to address racial justice and social equity issues everywhere,” Martin said. “He has demonstrated his commitment to improving others’ lives not just through his influential words, but through such actions as establishing a foundation that works with underserved communities, helping kids reach their full potential.

“He achieved greatness in his chosen career, but he didn’t stop there,” Martin said. “He is a force for good and a wonderful example for our graduating students, who I’m sure will find his message uplifting.”

Read full story in The Source