SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell will give the keynote address for the University of Utah’s 2021 general campus-wide commencement.
“Donovan Mitchell is a favorite of basketball fans and our community because of his commitment to excellence, education and social justice,” says President Ruth V. Watkins. “He shows by example what one person can do to influence the lives of countless others and how to step forward to advocate for change with grace and goodwill.”
The University of Utah’s commencement will be held virtually on Thursday, May 6 at 7 p.m. In-person college convocations will be held from May 5-8, 2021.
The university says Mitchell “is known as a team player and community builder who is passionate about education and social justice.”
Mitchell was awarded the offseason NBA Cares Community Assist Award in January in recognition of his commitment to advancing social justice and educational access, particularly for students of color.
“My goal is to continue to inspire and encourage youth, from coast to coast, with an emphasis on the importance of education,” Mitchell said after receiving the award, according to an NBA release.
Ephraim K. Kum, president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah, says he is “incredibly excited for students to hear from Donovan Mitchell. He has long been one of my favorite players, not just because of his abilities as an athlete, but also for his inspiring leadership, his genuine commitment to our community and his willingness to speak up on social justice issues.”
The Jazz offers a four-year scholarship that covers tuition, books, fees, and room and board that is offered to an underrepresented student each time the team wins a game. In total, the team will award 30 scholarships, representing the team’s first 30 wins of this season, for the 2021-22 academic year. Scholarships representing additional wins this season will be awarded in the 2022-23 academic year.
Mitchell told the media in January that the scholarship initiative was “one of the coolest things in the world.” He observed firsthand the power of education to transform lives while growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut. His mother, Nicole, worked for the Greenwich Country Day School, which Mitchell attended from third- to ninth grades. In December 2020, after receiving a maximum contract extension from the Jazz, Mitchell and his family pledged to donate $12 million to the school.
In spring 2020, Mitchell donated funds to ensure students in Utah’s Granite School District, more than 67,000 children in all, were able to get a healthy meal even as schools shut down. He also donated proceeds from his Adidas D.O.N. Issue #2 sneakers—the acronym stands for “Determination Over Negativity”—to support the education of the children of Jacob Blake, a Black man from Wisconsin who was shot and seriously injured by police last August; students of color at the University of Louisville and teachers at preschools in Connecticut and the Bronx. He regularly supports those in need through his SPIDACARES organization; “Spida” is Mitchell’s nickname.
The commencement speaker is invited by the president in consultation with students, trustees and the administration. When choosing a commencement speaker, the committee says it looks for someone who will resonate with the graduating class, set a celebratory tone and bring honor to the university.