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ESPN executives, commentators rise to the moment for commencement speeches

Young Chris LaPlaca (R), pictured with his parents here, graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 1979. (Photo courtesy of Chris LaPlaca/ESPN)
Young Chris LaPlaca (R), pictured with his parents, Nick and Pat, graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 1979. (Photo courtesy of Chris LaPlaca/ESPN)

EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Chris LaPlaca, will be the keynote speaker at St. Bonaventure University’s 157th Commencement ceremony on May 14, 2017. LaPlaca, Class of 1979, topped the senior class’ list of potential commencement speakers. LaPlaca is one of several ESPN executives and commentators participating in commencement ceremonies this spring (see sidebar below). In this essay, he shares with Front Row his approach to writing the speech and his thoughts about the vintage picture of his St. Bonaventure graduation above.

People tell me being the commencement speaker at your alma mater is a big deal, and I am inclined to agree … though I’ve asked a lot of folks if they remembered who their speaker was, and many have said no.

That’s good news since it sets a really low bar for me. Just be remembered!

Chris LaPlaca (Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images)
Chris LaPlaca
(Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images)

For the first time in the history of my alma mater, St. Bonaventure, the seniors were allowed to choose their speaker. The fact that they chose me says a lot more about ESPN than it does me.

The best advice I’ve been given about writing and delivering a commencement speech: Be entertaining. My kids think I’m a good storyteller, so that’s what I’m going to do – tell stories that deliver the learnings I’ve acquired along the way.

I’m confident I’ll relate; this picture is of my parents and me during my graduation week, which I remember vividly.

I’ve kept it in my desk at ESPN all these years not because of how I rocked that hair, or the Reggie Jackson-style tinted glasses – but because it melds two great sources of learning for me, my parents and SBU, and because of the look of pride on their faces.

Pride is what graduation day is about in many respects. It will all come full circle May 14 – Mother’s Day.

ESPN 2017 Commencement Speakers, Honorees
ESPN's Kate Fagan played basketball at Colorado from 1999-2004. (Photo courtesy of Kate Fagan/ESPN)
ESPN’s Kate Fagan played basketball at Colorado from 1999-2004. (Photo courtesy of Kate Fagan/ESPN)

Several ESPN executives and commentators are the featured speakers at graduation exercises across the country this spring. espnW writer Kate Fagan shared her thoughts about being asked to speak to the graduating class at her alma mater, the University of Colorado.

“I graduated from the University of Colorado in 2003 [Fagan played a year of basketball post-grad], so of course when the president of the student body reached out to gauge my interest in coming back to speak at the 2017 commencement I was … scared out of my mind,” Fagan said. “I said yes, because of course I wanted to, and I’m currently finalizing the speech. I can’t wait!”

Commencement Speakers

MAY 6

MAY 11

MAY 12

MAY 13

MAY 14

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