PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Acclaimed writer Dave Eggers will deliver the baccalaureate address to graduating seniors at Brown University on May 24, 2008, at 3 p.m. in the First Baptist Church in America.
Eggers, who earned an honorary degree from Brown in 2005, published A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a 2000 memoir about raising his younger brother after their parents died of cancer within weeks of each other. The book was a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist and was voted Best Book of the Year by TIME magazine, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
The memoir was followed by a novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, winner of the 2003 Independent Book Award. Critics also applauded Eggers’ 2006 novel, What Is the What, the story of Sudanese refugee Valentino Ashak Deng. The book used the real-life experiences of Deng, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” as fodder for a fictional tale of struggle and salvation.
A New York Times reviewer wrote: “To be your own most famous and enduring character is the fate of any talented memoirist; to escape it is how you prove yourself as a novelist. Whether this prompted Eggers’ decision to rework the material as fiction is something only he can answer – whatever the reason, the results are stunning. What Is the What is a portrait of a character that forces us to examine our world and ourselves, and how our struggle for identity is more of a collective battle than we’re often willing to admit.”
In 1998, Eggers founded McSweeney’s, an independent book-publishing house in San Francisco that puts out the McSweeney's quarterly literary journal; the monthly magazine The Believer; a daily humor website, www.mcsweeneys.net, and Wholphin, a DVD quarterly of short films.
In 2002, Eggers opened 826 Valencia, a writing lab for children and teen-agers in San Francisco. There are now branches in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Boston. With the help of his workshop students, Eggers edits a collection of fiction, essays, and journalism called The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He is also the co-editor of the Voice of Witness series of oral histories.
The Baccalaureate Service
The Baccalaureate Service is a medieval tradition incorporating the custom of presenting the candidates for the degree of bachelor (bacci) with the laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration. Brown’s president delivered the baccalaureate sermon until 1937, when Henry Wriston, the first University president who was not a Baptist minister, assumed office.
The multi-faith service includes readings in original languages by Brown students, the lion dance (a Chinese tradition of courage), a Muslim call to prayer, the pouring of a libation from tradi-tional African religion, a Hindu blessing, a Christian reading, a Jewish text, Taiko drumming, and Zen silence. The service also honors the lives of Brown faculty members and classmates who have died.
For questions on Commencement, please contact the Office of University Events at (401) 863-2474. Members of the press should contact the Office of Media Relations at (401) 863-2476.