Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell to give U’s 2021 commencement address

Donovan Mitchell. Photo: Twitter/Donovan Mitchell

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 30, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell will give the keynote address for the University of Utah’s 2021 general campus-wide commencement, officials announced Tuesday.

“Donovan Mitchell is a favorite of basketball fans and our community because of his commitment to excellence, education and social justice,” said President Ruth V. Watkins by way of a news release. “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’s general campus-wide commencement will take place virtually on Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m. here. In-person college convocations will be held May 5 through 8.

In January, the NBA awarded Mitchell the offseason NBA Cares Community Assist Award, presented by Kaiser Permanente, 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.

“Mitchell appreciates the Jazz organization’s commitment to offer a four-year scholarship –covering tuition, books, fees and room and board — to an underrepresented student each time the team wins a game,” the U of U news release said. “The scholarships can be used at one of six universities in Utah. 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,” the news release said. Mitchell’s mother, Nicole, worked for the Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich, Connecticut, 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.

“With this donation, Mitchell is giving children of color and children from underserved neighborhoods access to the best possible education through the Mitchell Family Scholarship Fund,” the news release said. “This program will assist Greenwich Country Day School in providing need-based aid for students in grades nursery through 12.” In addition, he is building a new gymnasium for the school and providing financial assistance to teachers.

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 is also a member of the inaugural board of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition.

Mitchell entered the NBA draft in 2017 and was selected as the No. 13 overall pick by the Denver Nuggets, who immediately traded him to the Jazz. Mitchell received four Rookie of the Month awards in his first year in the NBA and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.

In 2018, Mitchell won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. He has been an All-Star for two of the four years he has been in the league. He has received three NBA Player of the Week recognitions and was selected to the NBA All-Star Game for the second straight season in 2021.

The commencement speaker is invited by the president in consultation with students, trustees and the administration. “When choosing a commencement speaker, the committee looks for someone who will resonate with the graduating class, set a celebratory tone and bring honor to the U,” the news release said.


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