William S. Nye ’77 – known to millions as Bill Nye the Science Guy – will speak at Senior Convocation Saturday, May 25, at 12:30 p.m. at Schoellkopf Field during Cornell’s 2019 Graduation Weekend.
By tradition, Cornell’s senior class chooses a Convocation speaker. Charlotte Lefkovitz ’19, chair of the Senior Convocation Committee, announced the selection.
“Bill Nye will inspire the Cornell Class of 2019 to be curious, informed, hopeful and empowered agents of positive change,” Lefkovitz said. “His platform of intellectual inquiry and pride in his Cornell education will make the weekend iconic and relevant for us as graduates. Having a fixture of our childhood serve as our steward into postgraduate life is exciting and feels very full circle.”
As a science educator, engineer, comedian, television personality and author, Nye aims to foster a scientifically literate society and to help people appreciate the science that makes our world work.
Nye earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell, and he has visited the university regularly in the 42 years since. From 2001-05, he served as a Frank H.T. Rhodes Visiting Professor.
In 2011, Nye designed and funded the 12-foot-diameter clock atop Rhodes Hall. A 14-inch disc on the clock face illuminates for several minutes each day at solar noon – when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky.
Nye spoke in detail about his mother and father at Cornell’s Sesquicentennial celebration in 2015. Nye recounted that his father – a Japanese prisoner of war for the entirety of World War II – had a passion for sundials, and how he himself caught the sundial bug. Decades later, Nye suggested that sundials be incorporated into Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
Early in his career, Nye was a Boeing engineer by day and a stand-up comedian by night. In 1986 he became a writer and performer on Seattle’s homegrown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live,” where his character Bill Nye the Science Guy was born. The show was broadcast in the half-hour before “Saturday Night Live.” The character proved so popular that he earned his own show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which became nationally syndicated in the 1990s.
In April 2017, Nye returned to television with a new series, “Bill Nye Saves the World,” which debuted on Netflix. On the show, Nye explored scientific problems and misconceptions, refuting claims that rebuke science.
Nye co-chaired the inaugural March for Science, a series of rallies and marches held in Washington, D.C., and more than 600 other cities around the world on Earth Day 2017.
Nye now serves as CEO of the Planetary Society, the world’s largest space-interest group. It was co-founded by late Cornell astronomy professor Carl Sagan.
Senior Convocation is open to the public, and tickets are not required. The convocation will move indoors to Barton Hall, if weather is deemed unsafe, and admission will be by e-ticket only. Graduating seniors will be able to reserve up to two e-tickets, starting at noon on Wednesday, May 22, on a first-come, first-served basis.
For details, visit www.commencement.cornell.edu.