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Roy Williams, a two-time Carolina graduate who led the men’s basketball team to three NCAA championships during his 18 years as head coach here, will be the keynote speaker at the Class of 2020’s long-awaited Commencement celebration.

Roy Williams on the basketball court during a game.. Carolina head coach, Roy Williams during a Notre Dame vs North Carolina men's basketball game at the Dean E. Smith Center on January 15, 2019. (Photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)
Carolina head coach, Roy Williams during a Notre Dame vs North Carolina men’s basketball game at the Dean E. Smith Center on Jan. 15, 2019. (photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The Class of 2020 may hear a few dadgums of affection during its Commencement ceremony this fall.

Roy Williams, a two-time Carolina graduate who led the men’s basketball team to three NCAA championships during his 18 years as head coach here, will be the keynote speaker at the Class of 2020’s long-awaited Commencement celebration.

The historic ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 10, at Kenan Stadium. The class’s original Commencement ceremony set for May 2020 was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be the first known Carolina commencement to be held in October.

“Members of the Class of 2020 have had to wait a year and a half to celebrate their graduation together, and we want to make sure their ceremony is extra special. Coach Williams is an inspiration on and off the court, and his love for Carolina is unmatched. I know he will provide sound wisdom and share his passion for Carolina with our graduates,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz.

The Commencement ceremony is part of a three-day celebration for the Class of 2020. The weekend begins on Friday, Oct. 8, with a Bell Tower climb and a Welcome Back to Franklin Street celebration. On Saturday, Oct. 9, the Class of 2020 will be recognized at the Carolina vs. Florida State football game and can attend a Taste of Chapel Hill tailgate and participate in the Bell Tower climb. The celebration will close on Sunday with the UNC General Alumni Association’s traditional champagne toast and a Carolina First celebration at the Bell Tower quads and the Commencement ceremony.

Members of the Class of 2020 have until Sept. 24 to register for the Commencement ceremony. Tickets are already sold out for the football game. The registration deadline for the other events is Oct. 1.

Williams, who received his undergraduate degree from Carolina in 1972 and a master’s degree in teaching in 1973, retired in April after 33 seasons and 903 wins as a college basketball head coach, including 18 of those years at Carolina and 15 at the University of Kansas. He was an assistant coach at Carolina under Coach Dean Smith for 10 years before that.

Williams was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2007 and coached the Tar Heels to NCAA championships in 2005, 2009 and 2017. He led the Tar Heels to a 485-163 record, two other Final Fours, nine ACC regular-season championships and three ACC Tournament wins.

Off the court, Williams and his wife, Wanda ‘72, helped support thousands of Carolina students through their generous donations. In March, Carolina announced the Williamses had made their largest one-time gift to Carolina with a $3 million donation to support scholarships for athletes, Carolina Covenant Scholars and Chancellor’s Science Scholars in the College of Arts & Sciences. In all, the Williamses gave more than $5.8 million to Carolina while Williams was head coach of the Tar Heels.

In particular, the Williamses have been supporters of the Carolina Covenant since it started nearly 20 years ago. The program provides eligible low-income scholars a debt-free path to graduation through a combination of scholarships, grants and work-study. Williams was the first in his family to attend college. He has said he didn’t grow up dreaming of college and never imagined he’d one day be a Tar Heel.

“I was so naïve about so many things, and the University helped me mature,” he said last spring. “The idea of where I would be right now if I had gone elsewhere is hard to even envision. We need to let other people have these opportunities.”

By University Communications

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