Commencement 2021 began with the surprise appearance of musical genius and onetime RISD student David Byrne, one of five guest speakers to earn an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts this year. Byrne offered graduating students a handy list of tips for making the most of their creative lives: “Be true to your medium,” he advised. “Never be boring. The world isn’t always fair… but there are surprises and beauty in the everyday.”

Byrne was part of a June 5 event that allowed the international RISD community to celebrate the Class of 2021 together. A robust speaking program and virtual conferral of honorary degrees took place in the morning, and then 400-plus undergrads and more than 200 graduate students were awarded their degrees in an in-person afternoon ceremony that was also livestreamed.

“I bet you never imagined your time at RISD concluding with all the challenges and upsets of the past year,” President Rosanne Somerson noted in her welcoming address.“But in spite of all this tumult, you have triumphed.”

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Schedule

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2021
Saturday, June 5th
12:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Lynn Nottage | Honorary Degree Recipient

Lynn Nottage
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

12:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Virgil Abloh | Honorary Degree Recipient

Virgil Abloh
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

12:00 AM

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Alla Alsahli, Undergraduate Student Speaker

Alla Alsahli, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Amy Huang Presentation of Student Awards

Amy Huang, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Cathy Park, Undergraduate Student Speaker

Cathy Park, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 David Byrne and President Rosanne Somerson Intro and Open Remarks

David Byrne, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 David Byrne | Honorary Degree Recipient

David Byrne, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Elizabeth Diller | Honorary Degree Recipient

Elizabeth Diller
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Kent Klienman Provost's Address and John R. Frazier Awaards Presentation

Kent Klienman, Rhode Island School of Design
Laura Briggs, Rhode Island School of Design
Paul Sproll, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Shepard Fairey | Honorary Degree Recipient

Shepard Fairey, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Sophie Weston Chien, Undergraduate Student Speaker

Sophie Weston Chien, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM

Commencement 2021 Teisha Bradley, Graduate Student Speaker

Teisha Bradley, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD President, Rhode Island School of Design

Limited in person event outdoors on RISD campus and live streamed for virtual attendees.

10:00 AM