Stanford announced that tennis star and former student John McEnroe will give the 2023 Commencement speech on June 18 at 9:30 a.m.
McEnroe enrolled at Stanford in 1977 and won the U.S. collegiate title in 1978 before leaving the University to play professionally, going on to win seven Grand Slam singles titles and 10 more Grand Slam doubles titles.
He has also written two memoirs, founded a non-profit to aid children through tennis, commentated for various networks including ESPN and NBC and narrates the Netflix original television series “Never Have I Ever.”
McEnroe’s appearance on campus means a great deal to some graduating senior athletes like Neel Rajesh ’23, who plays on the men’s tennis team.
“When I first heard about McEnroe being the commencement speaker, I had a sense of pride that someone from the sport I play was able to transcend just the sports world and be recognized by more than people within the sports industry as an influential person,” Rajesh said.
Senior Class Presidents Alison Cohen, Nicolas Garcia, Ecy King and Grant Sheen first proposed choosing McEnroe as the commencement speaker, according to University Spokesperson Dee Mostofi.
Mostofi noted in an email to The Daily that McEnroe will have “complete autonomy over the content of his address.” She added that Stanford “welcome[s] and look forward to hearing his speech.”
Although the topic of his speech is unknown, Rajesh hopes to hear more about McEnroe’s tennis experience.
“I am hoping that he speaks about how tennis has impacted his life and his experience here at Stanford when we played for the school,” Rajesh said. “I also think that it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on how tennis has taught him numerous life lessons and how he has learned from them.
Yasmine Mitchell ’23 expressed “temperate” feelings toward McEnroe being chosen as the speaker, and notes that “the feeling is pretty similar” among other seniors she’s spoken with.
“I read the email and I said, ‘Who is that?’ And then I looked him up and I don’t know if it really had any impact on me,” Mitchell said.
Last year, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings delivered the Class of 2022’s commencement address. Previous commencement speakers at the University have included technology icons like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Hollywood A-listers like Issa Rae ’07 and Sterling K. Brown ’98 and politicians like Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar ’00 and Michael Bloomberg. Mitchell says that the notoriety of these past speakers added to her neutral sentiment on McEnroe.
“I’ve looked through a list of past commencement speakers and some of them have been household names. That’s just kind of cool,” Mitchell said.
However, for Rajesh, McEnroe is considered a household name due to his athletic success.
“I am happy that the University chose him to speak,” Rajesh said. “I think having an athlete speak is going to be a good change of pace compared to past speakers and will allow for a different view on many topics.”