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‘Wimpy Kid’ Creator Jeff Kinney ’93 to Address Winter 2021 Graduates

Author, Illustrator to Speak at Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 20

By Maryland Today Staff

Author and illustrator Jeff Kinney ’93 will deliver the University of Maryland’s Winter 2021 commencement address on Dec. 20, the university announced today. He will address thousands of graduates, family and friends during the ceremony at the Xfinity Center.

“I have had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Kinney since becoming president, and I have no doubt that he will have inspiring words of advice to share with our graduates from his time at UMD and beyond,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “As an illustrator, best-selling author and fellow Terp, we are glad to welcome him back to campus to be part of such a monumental day for our graduates."

A cartoonist and best-selling children’s author, Kinney is the creator of the worldwide Diary of a Wimpy Kid phenomenon that has sold hundreds of millions of books and been adapted for both film and television.

“My experiences at the University of Maryland helped shape me, and set me on the path I’m on today,” said Kinney. “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 is a proud Terp who originally dreamed of becoming a newspaper cartoonist. Kinney studied computer science before earning a degree in criminology and criminal justice. He gained notoriety at UMD for his “Igdoof” strip in The Diamondback that satirized College Park life through the adventures of its titular awkward character.

He worked software and web design jobs while trying to get a syndication deal and collecting ideas for a book about a middle-school weakling named Greg Heffley. Kinney started publishing daily installments on Funbrain.com in 2004—garnering up to 70,000 readers a day—and two years later signed a multibook deal with publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc. to turn Diary of a Wimpy Kid into a book series.

The first book, packed with Kinney’s distinctive stick-figure doodles, was an instant bestseller in 2007, and exponential success followed for each entry in the series. A permanent fixture on The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, Kinney has sold more than 250 million copies around the world in 79 editions in 65 languages. Kinney 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 will premiere on Disney+ on Dec. 3.

Kinney is also the creator of Poptropica, an online site where millions of kids have explored and played games to learn history and develop problem-solving techniques. It has been named one of Time magazine’s 50 best websites.

Kinney, who Time has also listed among the most influential people in the world, has won numerous national and international awards, including two Children’s Choice Book Awards and six Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite Book.

He and his wife have two sons and own an independent bookstore and cafe in Massachusetts named An Unlikely Story.

More details about the campuswide ceremony are available at commencement.umd.edu.

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