Finals Weekend Speakers


Ed Helms: Actor, Writer, Comedian, and Musician

Friday, May 15
Valedictory Exercises

The University of Virginia’s Class of 2015 announced today that actor, writer and comedian Ed Helms will speak Friday, May 15 at Valedictory Exercises.

 “We really wanted a speaker who was both inspiring and relatable, which immediately led us to Ed Helms,” said Danielle Ager, who chairs the Class of 2015 Graduation Committee. “Mr. Helms’ work, both on- and off-screen, serves as examples of his passion, generosity and dedication to everything he commits himself to – traits we feel our whole class can learn and benefit from.”

“The Class of 2015 has really grown up while watching Ed Helms, and we’re so excited to be welcoming such a positive and dynamic role model to Charlottesville this spring.”

Born and raised in Atlanta and now based in Los Angeles, Helms attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio before moving to New York City in 1996 to pursue a career in comedy. There, he immersed himself in sketch, improvisational and standup comedy, performing as often as possible and studying with The Upright Citizens Brigade troupe.

In 2002, Helms landed a correspondent role on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” where he stayed for almost five years, combining his loves of comedy and politics. From there, he joined NBC’s hit comedy, “The Office,” starring for seven years as Andy Bernard, a Cornell grad and a cappella singer, alongside fellow “Daily Show” alum Steve Carell.

In feature films, Helms has starred in “The Hangover” trilogy with Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis. The first installment won the 2010 Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical. Additional film credits include “We’re The Millers”; “The Lorax,” based on the famous Dr. Seuss children’s book; the Duplass brothers’ “Jeff, Who Lives At Home”; and “Cedar Rapids,” for which Helms was also the executive producer.

Recently he completed production on a new movie, “Vacation,” in which he plays protagonist Rusty Griswold, son of Clark Griswold, the legendary Chevy Chase character from the original National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movies.

In 2013, Helms launched his production company, Pacific Electric Picture Co., with producing partner Michael Falbo. The company is developing and producing numerous television shows and feature films.

Beyond show business, Helms sits on the board of trustees at Oberlin College and on the advisory board for Education Through Music-Los Angeles, a non-profit that builds the music curriculum and funds music education in Los Angeles public schools. He has also worked closely with Malaria No More, an organization at the vanguard of the fight to eradicate malaria worldwide.

A lifelong musician, Helms plays banjo in his bluegrass band, The Lonesome Trio, which formed at Oberlin College in the mid-1990s and has played together for more than 20 years. In 2010, Helms co-founded The L.A. Bluegrass Situation, a music festival in Los Angeles, and its sister website,, providing news and resources for fans of American roots music and culture.

Helms does have an interesting prior link to the University, having sung with the Hullabahoos, a male a capella group at UVa, during a 2012 episode of “The Office.” The executive producer of that show, Halsted Sullivan, is a 1989 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences and was a founding member of the singing group.

Valedictory Exercises are scheduled to be held Friday, May 15 at 4 p.m. on the Lawn. The rain site is John Paul Jones Arena. The ceremony also will include the presentation of various awards and the bestowing of the class gift, as well as remarks from the class president and trustees and UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan.


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Terry McAuliffe: Governor of Virginia

Saturday, May 16
Final Exercises for the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

On Saturday, May 16, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe will deliver the keynote speech to graduates of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

“We are delighted that Governor McAuliffe will speak at Final Exercises,” UVa President Teresa Sullivan said. “This is a continuation of the University’s long-standing tradition of inviting Virginia’s governor to speak at a Finals ceremony during his four-year term in office. The governor’s participation will make the day even more meaningful for our students and families.”

Sworn in as Virginia’s 72nd governor in January, McAuliffe has worked to grow and diversify Virginia’s economy and encourage more businesses across the nation and globe to locate in the commonwealth.

Previous Virginia governors with UVa ties have included University founder Thomas Jefferson; former UVa. President Colgate Darden; and Gerald Baliles, director and CEO of UVa’s Miller Center.

Before entering politics, McAuliffe was a banker, real estate developer, home builder and Internet venture capitalist. In 1985, McAuliffe helped found the Federal City National Bank in Washington, D.C. In January 1988, the bank’s board elected McAuliffe chairman at age 30, making him the youngest elected chairman of a federally chartered bank in U.S. history.

McAuliffe’s memoir, “What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals,” was a New York Times best seller.

He attended Catholic University and Georgetown Law School. He and his wife, Dorothy, have five children.


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Bob Bruner: Dean of the Darden Graduate School of Business

Sunday, May 17
Final Exercises for all other 10 schools and the Data Science Institute

On Sunday, May 17, Bob Bruner, the dean of UVa's Darden School of Business, will speak to the graduates of the University's other 10 schools, plus the first graduates from UVa's Data Science Institute.

Bruner joined the UVa. faculty in 1982 and became the eighth dean of the Darden School in 2005. In April, he announced he would step down at the end of the current academic year after a successful tenure that included being named 2011 “Dean of the Year” by CNN Money/Fortune and Poets and Quants, a media outlet dedicated to graduate business education.

“Bob Bruner’s impact on Darden has been transformational and will carry the school forward,” Sullivan said when Bruner announced his intent to step down as dean at the end of his current term. “Darden is recognized worldwide for student satisfaction and for delivering the best graduate business education experience. Bob and his team have achieved this reputation through curricular innovations, the launch of two new formats of the Darden MBA, an unrelenting search for top faculty and student talent, and attention to every detail of the academic experience.”

Under Bruner’s leadership, Darden is consistently listed among the world’s best graduate business schools. In early October, The Economist magazine ranked Darden’s M.B.A. program No. 3 in the world.

Among business school deans, Bruner is recognized as a pioneer in the use of social media. He started his popular and wide-ranging Dean’s Blog in 2006 and is a prolific tweeter. He has encouraged leading-edge efforts in technology at Darden, including the school’s 2009 collaboration with Amazon to pilot e-readers in the classroom and the 2013 delivery of several massive open online courses on the Coursera platform. More than 600,000 people registered for the courses.

An expert in finance and management, Bruner has received numerous awards for teaching, research and case writing. Six times, Darden students selected him as a faculty marshal in recognition of his teaching excellence; five times he was cited for teaching excellence in the biannual “Business Week Guide to the Best Business Schools.” In 1995, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia gave him its Outstanding Faculty Award.

Born in Chicago and raised in Wisconsin, Bruner received a B.A. from Yale University and the MBA and DBA degrees from Harvard University. A master of the case study classroom, he teaches and conducts research in finance and management and has served as a visiting professor at the international graduate business school INSEAD, at IESE, the graduate business school of the University of Navarra, and at Columbia University business schools. He has written or co-written some 300 case studies and several books, including “Deals From Hell,” “Applied Mergers and Acquisitions,” “Case Studies in Finance” and “The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned From the Market’s Perfect Storm.”

Bruner and his wife, Bobbie, have two sons.

After a year’s sabbatical, Bruner will return to the classroom in 2016.

Last Updated: February 4, 2015


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