Stanford alum Sterling K. Brown, who recently made history by becoming the first African American to win both the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award and Golden Globe for best actor in a dramatic TV series, will give the 2018 Commencement address at Stanford on Sunday, June 17.

Senior class presidents, from left, Jack Seaton, Madilyn Ontiveros, actor and commencement speaker Sterling K. Brown, senior class presidents Rachel Morrow and Ibrahim Bharmal.

Senior class presidents, from left, Jack Seaton, Madilyn Ontiveros, actor and 127th Stanford Commencement speaker alumnus Sterling K. Brown, senior class presidents Rachel Morrow and Ibrahim Bharmal. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“Sterling K. Brown is an eloquent role model for an entire generation, inspiring us with moving performances that not only bring life to each character, but also impart to the world a deeper understanding of our society,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “I am so pleased that Sterling will be coming back to Stanford this June to further inspire all of our graduates at Commencement.”

Tessier-Lavigne made the announcement this evening, when Brown and his wife, Stanford alumna and actress Ryan Michelle Bathe, spoke before a standing-room-only crowd in Cemex Auditorium.

Although Brown acted in high school, he came to Stanford in 1994 as an economics major and planned to be a businessman. However, during his first year at the university, he was invited by Harry Elam Jr., then Stanford associate professor of drama (currently, vice president for the arts and senior vice provost for education), to participate in the university’s production of August Wilson’s play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.

After seeing Brown’s performance, Elam encouraged him to do more stage work. Brown graduated from Stanford in 1998 with a degree in drama. He went on to earn an MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2001.

“We could not be more thrilled to have Sterling K. Brown as Stanford’s 2018 Commencement speaker,” said Senior Class presidents Ibrahim I. Bharmal, Rachel Elizabeth Morrow, Madilyn Hope Ontiveros and Jack Robert Seaton, who met Brown and Bathe this evening. “He has had a pioneering year, and throughout his successful career, he has continued to keep his time at Stanford close to his heart. We have no doubt that Brown’s humor, cadence and experience will lend itself to an insightful Commencement speech that motivates our class to passionately pursue our endeavors after Stanford.”

Brown’s professional acting career began in 2002, with a small part in the film Brown Sugar. He followed with roles in films such as Trust the Man, Righteous Kill, The Suspect and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

In 2017, Brown co-starred in the film Marshall. He received an NAACP Image Award nomination for his role. This year, Brown will star in Black Panther, The Predator and Hotel Artemis.

The Stanford alum has had a long and successful career in television, with roles on many popular and critically acclaimed programs such as ER, NYPD Blue, JAG, Alias, Boston Legal and The Good Wife. He had recurring roles in the NBC series First Watch, as well as in Person of Interest and Supernatural. In 2007, he was cast as Roland Burton in the Lifetime series Army Wives, playing the only husband in a group of women dealing with the deployment of military spouses – a role he played until 2013.

In September 2016, Brown won an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor for his portrayal of prosecutor Christopher Darden in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. He also won a Critics Choice Award for the role and was nominated for a Golden Globe, SAG Award and NAACP Image Award.

It was also in 2016 that he took the role of Randall Pearson in NBC’s family drama This Is Us. One year later, he won his second Emmy, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, for his work in This Is Us – becoming the first African-American actor to win in the category since 1998.

Brown made history in January when he took home the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama TV series for his role in This Is Us. He’s the first African-American to win the award in the Globes’ 75-year history. Later that same month, he became the first African American actor to win a SAG Award in the category of Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series. He was also awarded as a member of the cast of This Is Us, when the show won the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1976, Brown grew up in Olivette, Missouri, and attended Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, a co-educational private school in the suburbs of St. Louis. Brown met Bathe while both were undergraduates at Stanford, where they worked together on stage productions. They were married in 2007. The two have continued to work together in television. Bathe has appeared in the recurring role of Yvette on This Is Us, and before that, she and Brown appeared on the Lifetime series Army Wives. They have two sons and reside in Los Angeles.

Media Contacts

E.J. Miranda, University Communications:, (650) 724-9161