NFL quarterback and N.C. State University alumnus Russell Wilson is returning to Carter-Finley Stadium this spring as the commencement speaker for the 2021 graduation ceremonies.
Wilson, who was recently named the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, played football and baseball for the Wolfpack. He will attend N.C. State’s two in-person, outdoor commencement ceremonies scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, May 14 and 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 15.
“We are honored to welcome Russell Wilson back to NC State to inspire our spring 2021 graduates at these very special commencement ceremonies,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a campus message. “Russell has always supported his alma mater well and represented NC State with class. We know our students, their families and our entire Wolfpack community will be excited to see Russell back home at Carter-Finley Stadium.”
While at N.C. State, Wilson was a two-time Academic All-ACC selection and was named ACC Rookie of the Year and team MVP in 2008. He led his teams to two bowl games in three years and quickly became one of the top passers in school history, ranking among the best for career passing yards, passing touchdowns and completion percentage.
He also set an NCAA record for career pass attempts without an interception with 379. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication from N.C. State in 2010.
Wilson has also had a standout career in the NFL since he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. He has started every game since joining the NFL with a total of 144 regular-season games and 16 playoff games. He’s led the Seahawks to the playoffs nearly every year, including two Super Bowls, and won Super Bowl XLVIII. He holds the second highest NFL career passer rating of all-time.
In addition to his success on the field, Wilson has been recognized for his volunteer and charity work in Seattle. He was honored for his work with the Why Not You Foundation, a non-profit he founded that’s dedicated to education, children’s health and fighting poverty. And during the coronavirus pandemic, he also partnered with Feeding America to help raise awareness and money that supplied more than 10 million meals to individuals in need.
N.C. State graduates will hear remarks from Wilson, graduating students and university leaders at both ceremonies and can RSVP for up to four tickets for friends and family. Woodson will confer two honorary degrees — one on alumnus Jeff Williams, chief operating officer at Apple, and one on alumna Ashley Christensen, James Beard Award-winning chef.
The events will follow state and local COVID-19 guidelines, including social distancing and face mask mandates. Both ceremonies will be streamed live to accommodate those who won’t be attending in-person.
This ceremony marks another step toward normalcy during the pandemic and brings back a tradition that was lost last spring when NCSU graduation was forced to go virtual.
Duke University will also have an in-person commencement at Wallace Wade Stadium in May.
UNC-Chapel Hill graduates will hear virtual speeches from COVID-19 experts Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a Carolina alumna, at in-person commencement ceremonies at Kenan Stadium in May.