Actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani will give the keynote address at Senior Convocation.

Kumail Nanjiani to deliver Convocation address on May 23

Kumail Nanjiani, an actor, comedian, producer and Oscar-nominated screenwriter who has starred in Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” and in the Hulu miniseries “Welcome to Chippendales,” will give the keynote address at Senior Convocation, Thursday, May 23, from 1-2:30 p.m. in Barton Hall.

The student-run 2024 Convocation Committee announced the selection April 16.

“As a committee, we shortlisted values that we were looking for in a speaker: wholesome, empathetic, resilient, dynamic and trailblazing,” said Asha Prabhat ’24, chair of the committee. “Kumail was one of a few dozen names we had flagged as encompassing all of those values, and the committee is beyond excited we were able to land him.

“As a BIPOC actor with such a range of types of roles in his career,” she said, “we’re excited for his speech, which we are sure will be funny, inspirational and relatable.”

Convocation is a student-led event that celebrates the accomplishments of the undergraduate graduating class. In addition to the guest speaker, highlights of the event include a student speaker, student organization performances and remarks from university leadership.

From 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., a pre-Convocation event will feature Class of 2024 merchandise, snacks, photo booths and music. New this year: Student organizations will be performing on stage in the pre-event, starting at noon. Students are asked to enter Barton Hall through the side entrance across from Teagle Hall.

Immediately following Convocation, the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development will host the official Class of 2024 photo.

“Convocation is integral to Senior Week because it’s the last week to celebrate all of our individual and collective successes with one another,” Prabhat said. “As a senior-only event, we showcase incredible Cornell talent with our performance groups, and hear and give speeches that highlight the challenges and triumphs of four years well spent.”

Nanjiani, 45, spent his childhood in Karachi, Pakistan, before moving to the U.S. at age 18 to attend Grinnell College in Iowa. He majored in computer science and philosophy, graduating in 2001, then moved to Chicago, where he performed stand-up comedy at open-mic events.

He later moved to New York City, where he continued to perform stand-up and made appearances on television, including on “The Colbert Report” with Stephen Colbert. One of his first film roles was in 2013’s “The Kings of Summer.”

In 2017, Nanjiani starred in the semi-autobiographical romantic comedy “The Big Sick,” which he wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, a screenwriter and producer. Their work earned them an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay.

In the 2022 Hulu miniseries “Welcome to Chippendales,” Nanjiani played Somen “Steve” Banerjee, founder of the Chippendales all-male dance troupe.

Nanjiani, who had a leading voice role as Mack in the 2023 animated film “Migration,” joined season 4 of Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” which stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez.

He also has a role in “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” the latest installment in the franchise that began with 1984’s “Ghostbusters,” starring Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd.

Last year’s Convocation speaker was actor, comedian and medical doctor Ken Jeong.

Past speakers include former President Bill Clinton (2004); activist Martin Luther King III (2006); poet Maya Angelou (2008); former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (2012); former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, M.S. ’96, and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly (2015); then-former Vice President Joe Biden (2017); science educator and entertainer Bill Nye ’77 (2019); and author and activist Roxane Gay (2021).

Commencement will take place May 25 at Schoellkopf Field and will be split into two ceremonies, at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; visit the Commencement website for more information.

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Lindsey Knewstub