Shriver named commencement speaker

Timothy Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics International, has been named the speaker of the University’s 139th commencement ceremony.

“I’m thrilled to be asked to be the commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2010,” Shriver said in an e-mail.

“Young people are the future of our movement, and I know that the graduating students of the University of Illinois will help keep the legacy of my mother (Eunice Kennedy Shriver) and our movement alive.”

Shriver is the cousin of Christopher Kennedy, chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees, and his mother, sister of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, founded the Special Olympics in 1968.

Shriver said he was excited to be in the state that hosted the first-ever Special Olympic Games in Chicago, also in 1968.

He will speak at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on May 16 at the Assembly Hall.

Shriver works with 3.1 million Special Olympic athletes and their families in 175 countries, and has created Special Olympics initiatives in athlete leadership, cross-cultural research, health, education and family support, according to the Special Olympics Web site.

Along with working for the Special Olympics, Shriver also created the New Haven Public Schools’ Social Development Project and co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.

He has worked with world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Hosni Mubarak and Shimon Peres to help transform the Special Olympics into a movement that focuses on respect, acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities from around the world, according to the Web site.

“He seems like a good choice to represent a diverse population,” said Stacey Tandet, senior in ACES.

Shriver earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, a master’s degree from Catholic University in Washington D.C. and a doctorate in education from the University of Connecticut.

He was a producer for DreamWorks Studios and has produced or co-produced shows for ABC, TNT and NBC networks.

He has appeared on “The Today Show,” CNN, MTV and Nickelodeon’s “World of Difference.”

Babette Hiles, director of special events at the University, said the administration received input from various sources, including faculty and alumni, before deciding on Shriver for this year’s commencement speech.

She said commencement speakers have positive images that should give the students something to look up to.

Perri Kofkin, senior in Engineering, said she hopes Shriver will deliver a compelling commencement speech.

“I think (his speech) will be interesting, as long as he’s captivating and is able to (be) thought provoking (and) not the same old stuff that you hear at every grad speech,” Kofkin said.