2023 Commencement Speakers

April 17, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff, 

I hope the spring academic term is going well for you. As we prepare to honor Seattle University’s Class of 2023—first with our law graduates on May 13 at McCaw Hall, followed by our undergraduates and graduates on June 12 at Climate Pledge Arena—I am pleased to share that Doug Baldwin Jr. will speak at our undergraduate ceremony and Viet Thanh Nguyen, PhD will speak at the graduate ceremony. Both will receive honorary doctorates. 

Graduating from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Science, Technology and Society, Doug Baldwin signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and went on to a stellar professional football career. Two-time Pro Bowler and the Seahawks’ third all-time leader in team receptions, Mr. Baldwin was a key contributor during his eight years with the team, including their Super Bowl XLVIII victory and multiple playoff runs. 

Today, Mr. Baldwin is a business leader and a champion for social justice. He is founder and CEO of Vault 89 Ventures, a Renton-based capital venture firm that invests in people and ideas that deconstruct barriers historically displacing many in our communities, as well as CEO of Ventrk, a health-and-lifestyle-focused software company. Extensively involved in the community, Baldwin serves on the board of directors for Valor Worldwide, which provides resources and services to the military community. He helped establish and currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Players Coalition, an NFL-player-led organization advocating for criminal justice and education reform as well as the state’s Clemency and Pardons Board, which reviews criminal cases and provides recommendations to Governor Inslee regarding potential parole status of eligible inmates. Among other awards, he has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service and the Paul G. Allen Humanitarian. 

The speaker at our graduate ceremony, Viet Thanh Nguyen, PhD, is an award-winning author and professor. After graduating from Bellarmine College Preparatory, a Jesuit high school in San Jose, he earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Nguyen currently serves as the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. 

Dr. Nguyen’s debut novel, The Sympathizer—which explores themes of caste, education, war, identity and loyalty—earned the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, among other accolades. He was selected as a 2017 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, also known as the “genius grant.” A prolific author whose writings have received numerous awards, Dr. Nguyen’s other works include the short story collection The Refugees, as well as Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America and Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. Addressing themes surrounding race and ethnicity, Dr. Nguyen gives voice to the lives and cultures of refugees, especially Vietnamese refugees. He serves on the Board for the Pulitzer Prizes and the International Rescue Committee, is actively involved in promoting arts and Vietnamese culture and the study of how cultures, peoples, capital and ideas flow between Asia, the Americas and the Pacific Islands. 

We are delighted by the opportunity to hear from and honor Doug Baldwin and Dr. Viet Thanh Nguyen, two individuals whose lives and work are perfectly aligned with Seattle University’s Jesuit mission and values. I look forward to celebrating what will be a very special day for our graduates and their families. 


Eduardo M. Peñalver