The 240th Commencement
Dave Eggers Brown conferred an honorary Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.) on Eggers at its 237th Commencement in May 2005. Credit: John Abromowski/Brown University

Dave Eggers to speak at Baccalaureate

Author and publisher Dave Eggers, a 2005 honorary degree recipient, will return to Brown to deliver the baccalaureate address Saturday, May 24, at 3 p.m. in the First Baptist Church in America. Eggers has been described as “J.D. Salinger, Ken Kesey and Jack Kerouac rolled into one.”
By Wendy Lawton  |  May 19, 2008  |  Email to a friend
Acclaimed writer Dave Eggers will deliver the baccalaureate address to graduating seniors at 3 p.m. Saturday in the First Baptist Church in America.
Eggers, who earned an honorary degree from Brown in 2005, published A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a 2000 memoir about raising his younger brother after their parents died of cancer within weeks of each other. The book was a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist and was voted Best Book of the Year by TIME magazine, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
The memoir was followed by a novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, winner of the 2003 Independent Book Award. Critics also applauded Eggers’ 2006 novel, What Is the What, the story of Sudanese refugee Valentino Ashak Deng. The book used the real-life experiences of Deng, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” as fodder for a fictional tale of struggle and salvation.
In 1998, Eggers founded McSweeney’s, an independent book-publishing house in San Francisco that puts out the McSweeney's quarterly literary journal; the monthly magazine The Believer; a daily humor Web site,, and Wholphin, a DVD quarterly of short films.
In 2002, Eggers opened 826 Valencia, a writing lab for children and teen-agers in San Francisco. There are now branches in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Boston. With the help of his workshop students, Eggers edits a collection of fiction, essays, and journalism called The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He is also the co-editor of the Voice of Witness series of oral histories.
The Baccalaureate Service is a medieval tradition incorporating the custom of presenting the candidates for the degree of bachelor (bacci) with the laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration. Brown’s president delivered the baccalaureate sermon until 1937, when Henry Wriston, the first University president who was not a Baptist minister, assumed office.
The multifaith service includes readings in original languages by Brown students, the lion dance (a Chinese tradition of courage), a Muslim call to prayer, the pouring of a libation from traditional African religion, a Hindu blessing, a Christian reading, a Jewish text, Taiko drumming, and Zen silence.