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Graduates to Be Honored for Resilience and Achievements

Commencement Will Feature Remarks From Student and Bestselling Alum Author Jeff Kinney

By Liam Farrell

Commencement program with red confetti

For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UMD graduates this semester will experience a fully in-person, campuswide commencement.

Program photo and Kiara Anthony portrait by Stephanie S. Cordle; Jeff Kinney photo by Filip Wolak

Editor's note: On Dec. 16, the University of Maryland canceled the Dec. 20 main commencement ceremony and all college, school and department ceremonies scheduled for Dec. 21 and 22. This difficult decision was made to protect the health and well-being of the UMD community amid a surge of COVID-19 cases on campus. All winter graduates will be invited to the spring ceremony in May.

More than 3,300 students who have persevered through unprecedented times to earn their degrees will be honored at next week’s campuswide commencement ceremony, with a sendoff from an accomplished student and one of UMD’s most successful authors.

For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the graduating class, university officials and guests will gather together for the winter celebration. The 2020 and Spring 2021 ceremonies were either solely online or hybrid events, divided by school and college to meet safety protocols.

The ceremony will be held in the Xfinity Center and livestreamed at commencement.umd.edu and the UMD YouTube channel. Individual college, school and department ceremonies will be held across campus on Dec. 21 and 22.

“All of us have been inspired by how our students continue to demonstrate such admirable resilience in the face of challenging times. In a word, they are fearless,” said University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines. “We are overjoyed to be able to celebrate their achievements together and welcome them into the family of Terrapin alums.”

Jeff Kinney with "Wimpy Kid" illustration

The main commencement address will be given by Jeff Kinney ’93, the illustrator and best-selling children's author who created the worldwide “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” phenomenon.

“My experiences at the University of Maryland helped shape me, and set me on the path I’m on today,” Kinney said. “I am honored for the opportunity to return to my alma mater and speak to the next generation of leaders, creators and innovators as they prepare to tackle what comes next.”

Born and raised in Maryland by a family of UMD graduates, he gained notoriety for his “Igdoof” strip in The Diamondback that satirized College Park life through the adventures of its titular awkward character. After graduating with a degree in criminology and criminal justice, he worked software and web design jobs before signing a multi-book deal to turn his stories about a middle school weakling named Greg Heffley into a series.

The first book, packed with Kinney’s distinctive stick-figure doodles, was an instant bestseller in 2007 and he has remained a permanent fixture on The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, selling more than 250 million copies around the world in 79 editions in 65 languages. He has also served as producer on several films and most recently worked on a new, animated adaptation of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” book 1, which premiered Dec. 3 on Disney+.

Kiara Anthony portrait

The student speaker will be Kiara Anthony, a Baltimore County native graduating with a degree in government and politics. A member of the College Park Scholars living-learning program in international studies, Anthony was a member of the UMD equestrian team and garnered a host of campus leadership experience: She co-chaired the University Student Judiciary; served on the Campus Affairs and Student Conduct committees for the University Senate; and was a part of the Student Government Association’s advisory council to the UMD police department.

She has applied to law school, and hopes to specialize in an area such as business law or estate planning so she can assist efforts to build wealth in the African American community.

“How do I take my personal interests and help other people as well?” she says. “I’m not going to let that foundation go to waste.”

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