Russell Wilson

The Past 15 UW-Madison Spring Commencement Speakers

Here are the past 15 spring commencement speakers and five of our favorite pieces of wisdom that they shared with alumni-to-be.

Class of 2016

Russell Wilson, NFL Quarterback
“From the moment I saw this campus, I knew this was the place I wanted to be. From my coaches, to my teammates, to the guys in the equipment room and to of course the fans – everyone I met was so incredibly welcoming. And even though I only spent about a year here, I got to see how the Wisconsin Idea isn’t just a motto. It’s a commitment to work hard and surround yourself with good people, to never stop improving and to make the world just a little bit better every day.”

Class of 2015

Katie Couric, journalist
“Take the Wisconsin Idea, and spread it far and wide wherever you go. There are a world of problems just waiting for you to solve. Many will be around the block in your own neighborhood. And I have so much faith in you because you’ve already shown you’re ready to tackle some big, messy issues.”

“Take advantage of these difficult times because if you have hope and faith, if you are smart and tenacious and dedicated and willing to sacrifice, you can make a difference and make this a better world.”Allan “Bud” Selig ’56

Class of 2014

Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador

Class of 2013

Anders Holm ’03, actor, comedian, and writer

Class of 2012

Carol Bartz ’71, former president and CEO of Yahoo!
“Accept failure and learn from it. Failure — especially failure in your 50 years of working — failure is so important to understand how it can progress you forward.”

Class of 2011

John ’55 and Tashia Frankfurth ’55 Morgridge, philanthropists

Class of 2010

Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education
James Kass ’91, founder of Youth Speaks

Class of 2009

Allan “Bud” Selig ’56, commissioner of Major League Baseball
“Take advantage of these difficult times because if you have hope and faith, if you are smart and tenacious and dedicated and willing to sacrifice, you can make a difference and make this a better world.”

“Once you’re prepared, throw your preparation in the trash. The most interesting acting and the most interesting living in this world has the element of surprise and of genuine, honest discovery.”Bradley Whitford

Class of 2008

Shirley Schlanger Abrahamson DJS’62, Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice
Kay Smith Koplovitz ’67, founder of the USA Network

Class of 2007

André De Shields ’70, actor

Class of 2006

Florence Chenoweth MS’70, PhD’86, director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
Odessa Piper, restaurateur and founder of Madison’s L’Etoile

Class of 2005

Tammy Baldwin JD’89, United States congresswoman
“And now that you’re graduating, we’re counting on you. We are counting on you to take risks, dream big dreams, and not let the naysayers rob you of your ambitions. We are counting on you to embody the Wisconsin Idea and use your knowledge for the common good.”

Class of 2004

Bradley Whitford, actor

Class of 2003

Jerry Zucker ’72, producer and director

Class of 2002

Louis Holland Sr. ’65, chief investment officer of Holland Capital Management
Thomas Pyle Jr. MBA’63, chair of the Pyle Group