Will Ferrell ’90 has long trod the sidelines of USC football games, led the team onto the field of battle and returned for campus events on behalf of charities like Cancer for College. But none of the more than 60,000 people attending USC’s 134th commencement Friday knew quite what to expect when one of the university’s most famous alumni took to the stage.
The Trojan Family sent out 17,144 new graduates into the world, with the newly minted graduates representing more than 115 countries across the globe. Amid Ferrell’s expectedly uproarious laugh lines and the Mark Twain Prize winner’s recounting of a great American comedy journey rooted at USC, President C. L. Max Nikias reminded those graduating of their own duty to pay Trojan Family values forward across the globe, as so many already have.
“The sun never sets on the Trojan Family. This is the greatest and most dedicated family of its kind: hundreds of thousands of women and men who serve as leaders from Southern California to San Francisco, from Tokyo to Hong Kong, from New York to London to Mumbai and beyond,” Nikias said.
Ferrell capped his own campus valedictory by urging the 2017 class to “Fight On!” but not without first throwing one last dart that more than seemed to hit its mark with the honored graduates, their family, friends and other gathered guests: a completely Ferrellian rendition of I Will Always Love You.
Ferrell was one of six attendees presented with honorary doctorates from the university. The others were:
- Suzanne Dworak-Peck, the social work pioneer and philanthropist whose 2016 gift endowed the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
- David D. Ho, founding director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.
- Biomedical pioneer Gary Michelson, whose 2014 gift created the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.
- Mark Ridley-Thomas PhD ’89, chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
- Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren, whom Ferrell claimed narrowly beat him out for her Oscar-winning role in 2006’s The Queen.
“As a group, they represent excellence in a broad variety of endeavors, but they share a passionate commitment to bettering the lives of others through their work,” Nikias said. “Their collective contributions stand as an inspiration to us all.”
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