Rhode Island School of Design


RISD Class
of 2021

Join Us in Celebrating
RISD’s Class of 2021

Join us on June 5 to celebrate the achievements and perseverance of 403 undergraduate and 212 graduate students as they receive their degrees from Rhode Island School of Design. Like so many events and milestones during this time, RISD’s 2021 Commencement will look different. Yet we will acknowledge each of our graduating student’s hard work in ways that are celebratory and true to the spirit of our unique community.

Saturday, June 5, 10 am ET
Livestream Event

Bookmark this page! On Commencement day you’ll find a video stream of all programming—speakers, student honorees, conferrals and live music. No need to RSVP, as everyone around the world is invited to attend this year’s festivities.

10 am –11 am ET
Commencement Programming
11 am ET
2–4 pm ET
Live Graduate Conferrals

Speakers & Honorees

Virgil Abloh

Commencement Speaker
Honorary Degree Recipient

Born in Rockford, IL, Virgil Abloh is an artist, architect, engineer, creative director, artistic director, industrial designer, fashion designer, musician, DJ and philanthropist. After earning a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago. At IIT, while studying a design curriculum devised by Mies van der Rohe, Abloh began to craft the principles of his art practice. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented a major traveling survey of his work in summer 2019—one of the best attended exhibitions in the museum’s history. Currently, Abloh is the chief creative director and founder of Off-White™️ and men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton.

Elizabeth Diller

Honorary Degree Recipient

Elizabeth Diller is a partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). She and partner Ricardo Scofidio were included on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list, and she earned the first MacArthur Foundation Fellowship awarded in the field of architecture. DS+R completed two of the largest architecture and planning initiatives in New York City’s recent history: the adaptive reuse of an obsolete, industrial rail infrastructure into the High Line, a 1.5-mile long public park, and the transformation of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ half-century-old campus. Most recently, Diller led two other projects significant to New York: The Shed and the expansion of MoMA. She also co-created, -directed and -produced The Mile-Long Opera, an immersive choral work featuring 1,000 singers assembled along the length of the High Line. Diller is a professor of Architectural Design at Princeton University.

Shepard Fairey

Honorary Degree Recipient

RISD alumnus Shepard Fairey [BFA 92 Illustration] is a contemporary street artist, graphic designer, activist, illustrator, DJ and founder of OBEY Giant Art and OBEY Clothing. In 1989, while still a student at RISD, he created the Andre the Giant has a Posse sticker, which later evolved into his OBEY GIANT art campaign. In 2008, his portrait of then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama became an internationally recognized emblem of hope. Since then, Fairey has hand-painted more than 105 public murals across five continents, becoming one of the world’s most provocative artists and changing the way people view the urban landscape. Fairey’s stickers, guerilla street art presence and public murals are recognized globally. His works are in the permanent collections of the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and many others. Born in Charleston, SC, Fairey now resides in Los Angeles.

Lynn Nottage

Honorary Degree Recipient

Lynn Nottage is a playwright and screenwriter and the first woman in history to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Her plays, which have been produced widely in the US and around the world, include Floyds, Sweat, Mlimas Tale, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Ruined, Intimate Apparel, Fabulation or the Re-Education of Undine Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Las Meninas, Mud, River, Stone, Por’knockers and POOF! She has also written such musical librettos as The Secret Life of Bees and MJ (forthcoming); developed This is Reading, a performance installation presented in Reading, PA; and served as a writer and producer on the first season of the Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, directed by Spike Lee. Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, a Steinberg “Mimi” Distinguished Playwright Award, a Doris Duke Artist Award and a PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award, among others. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and an associate professor at Columbia University School of the Arts.

Warren Family Social Engagement Award

The Warren Family Social Engagement Award is presented to a graduating student whose creativity, energy, care for others and devotion to the greater good has made a significant difference in the RISD community.

Steven Mendelson Award for Community Service

Initiated by an anonymous donor, this award honors the late Illustration alumnus Steven Mendelson, a member of the Class of 1981 who passed away from AIDS in 1995. The Steven Mendelson Community Service Award is presented to a graduating senior who through their energy, efforts and devotion has significantly contributed to the quality, diversity and development of the community we share at RISD, while fulfilling the requirements of a quality education.

John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching

The John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching is named for the late John R. Frazier, a graduate of the class of 1912, RISD’s president from 1955–62, and a beloved professor of painting for many years. It was the hope of his family and friends that by establishing a memorial fund in his name, RISD’s “outstanding faculty” would be acknowledged and rewarded.