Pharrell Williams to deliver NSU commencement address for December 2021 graduates


NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 09: Grammy Winning Artist Pharrell Williams crashes Middle School assembly for surprise performance with Amp Up NYC students on December 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Little Kids Rock)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach native and music artist Pharrell Williams will deliver the keynote commencement address for Norfolk State University’s December 2021 graduating class.

NSU made the announcement Monday afternoon, saying the in-person commencement ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 11 at Joseph G. Echols Memorial Hall. It will also be live-streamed on the University’s website at

During the ceremony, NSU will confer nearly 400 degrees to candidates who have completed associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

Williams will be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree by NSU.

NSU gave background on Williams’ accomplishments, and called him a “longtime advocate against racial injustice.” Williams was a critical part of discussions with Gov. Ralph Northam about making Juneteenth a paid state holiday.

Williams, the brain behind the successful 2019 Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach, has received 13 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award nomination for his song “Happy,” and an Academy Award nomination for co-producing Best Picture-nominated “Hidden Figures” and a Golden Globe nomination for co-scoring the film.

Williams was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame with Chad Hugo for their work as The Neptunes.

Guests must have tickets to attend the ceremony, which are given to the graduates. NSU also requires attendees to have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of the ceremony.

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