The University of Wisconsin announced James Patterson as the Spring 2020 commencement keynote speaker and John Felder as the alumni speaker, Wednesday.
Patterson is the world’s best-selling author and has had 96 titles reach No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, according to a UW news release. Felder helped organize the 1969 Black Student Strike, and is a retired labor union administrator.
Patterson and Felder will speak at the commencement ceremony for bachelors, law and master’s degree students Saturday, May 9th at noon in Camp Randall. Felder will speak Friday, May 8th at the PhD, MFA and medical degree commencement ceremony at 5:30 p.m. in the Kohl Center.
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Chancellor Rebecca Blank spoke about Patterson in the news release.
“We are thrilled that someone of James Patterson’s stature, international acclaim, and generosity has agreed to share his insights with our graduates,” said Blank. “Very few people have reached Mr. Patterson’s level of success or had such a profound impact on education and the lives of students.”
Patterson and his wife, Susan Solie Patterson — who graduated from UW in 1979 — have supported over 150 scholarships per year at UW and have donated more than $70 million to education. The couple has also donated more than 3 million books while advocating for childhood literacy.
Felder will represent those who participated in the Black Student Strike of 1969, which led to the creation of Afro-American Studies Department in 1970. During the strike, Black students and other allies boycotted class, protested at the capital and blocked buildings in response to the university’s lack of progress on race-related goals.
“There was such resistance, such a refusal to do anything, that we thought that it was necessary for us to go on strike,” Felder said in the news release.