Campus Life

UF announces plans for Spring 2019 graduation weekend

Bestselling author and literacy advocate James Patterson to address graduates in The Swamp

The University of Florida will send off its 8,500 graduating students this spring with a grand celebration that honors their accomplishment with all the traditional joy and splendor of Gator graduation weekend.

Bestselling author and literacy advocate James Patterson will serve as the guest speaker at UF’s university-wide ceremony at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium set for 9 a.m. Saturday, May 4.

Patterson, a prizewinning author who has sold over 375 million books worldwide including “Alex Cross,” “Women’s Murder Club” and other popular titles and series, is an advocate for literacy and early childhood education who has partnered extensively with the UF College of Education to further those causes.

The university-wide ceremony, which celebrates the power and reach of education, will include a student speaker, Paige Fitzpatrick, who is earning her master’s degree in education from the UF College of Education. Last year, when she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, she was honored as the Outstanding Undergraduate Student in the Unified Early Childhood Program. Fitzpatrick is a recipient of the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship. Fitzpatrick’s dream is to become an elementary school teacher and a school-wide reading coach.

Photo of Paige Fitzpatrick

Throughout commencement weekend, college recognition ceremonies and a doctoral ceremony will celebrate and honor the achievements of each individual graduate.

Additionally, graduates will experience a new tradition, the “Senior Sendoff” celebration sponsored by UF Student Government and Class Councils. The sendoff, whose date will be announced soon, will provide a special opportunity for graduating students to celebrate together in a festival atmosphere prior to commencement.

“I look forward to joining students and their families in proudly celebrating our graduates with all the recognition and accolades they deserve,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “With James Patterson as our guest speaker at the university wide ceremony, and with other ceremonies recognizing the achievements of our graduates individually, it will be an incredibly fun and meaningful weekend for everyone.”

Patterson in 2013 established the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships to support 16 UF College of Education students pursuing careers as elementary or secondary school teachers. To date, these scholarships have supported 28 students.

In 2017, Patterson created the James Patterson Literacy Challenge to support UF’s Literacy Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to increase reading proficiency among third- to fifth-graders throughout Florida.

For his sustained efforts to help children become passionate readers and for his philanthropic efforts, Patterson received the National Book Foundation’s 2015 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. He will be awarded a UF Honorary Doctorate in May.

For more information about UF’s spring commencement, including a schedule for all the ceremonies, visit

Margot Winick Author
February 12, 2019