The University of Virginia’s Class of 2015 announced today that actor, writer and comedian Ed Helms will speak Friday, May 15 at Valedictory Exercises.
“We really wanted a speaker who was both inspiring and relatable, which immediately led us to Ed Helms,” said Danielle Ager, who chairs the Class of 2015 Graduation Committee. “Mr. Helms’ work, both on- and off-screen, serves as examples of his passion, generosity and dedication to everything he commits himself to – traits we feel our whole class can learn and benefit from.”
“The Class of 2015 has really grown up while watching Ed Helms, and we’re so excited to be welcoming such a positive and dynamic role model to Charlottesville this spring.”
Born and raised in Atlanta and now based in Los Angeles, Helms attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio before moving to New York City in 1996 to pursue a career in comedy. There, he immersed himself in sketch, improvisational and standup comedy, performing as often as possible and studying with The Upright Citizens Brigade troupe.
In 2002, Helms landed a correspondent role on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” where he stayed for almost five years, combining his loves of comedy and politics. From there, he joined NBC’s hit comedy, “The Office,” starring for seven years as Andy Bernard, a Cornell grad and a cappella singer, alongside fellow “Daily Show” alum Steve Carell.
In feature films, Helms has starred in “The Hangover” trilogy with Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis. The first installment won the 2010 Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical. Additional film credits include “We’re The Millers”; “The Lorax,” based on the famous Dr. Seuss children’s book; the Duplass brothers’ “Jeff, Who Lives At Home”; and “Cedar Rapids,” for which Helms was also the executive producer.
Recently he completed production on a new movie, “Vacation,” in which he plays protagonist Rusty Griswold, son of Clark Griswold, the legendary Chevy Chase character from the original National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movies.
In 2013, Helms launched his production company, Pacific Electric Picture Co., with producing partner Michael Falbo. The company is developing and producing numerous television shows and feature films.
Beyond show business, Helms sits on the board of trustees at Oberlin College and on the advisory board for Education Through Music-Los Angeles, a non-profit that builds the music curriculum and funds music education in Los Angeles public schools. He has also worked closely with Malaria No More, an organization at the vanguard of the fight to eradicate malaria worldwide.
A lifelong musician, Helms plays banjo in his bluegrass band, The Lonesome Trio, which formed at Oberlin College in the mid-1990s and has played together for more than 20 years. In 2010, Helms co-founded The L.A. Bluegrass Situation, a music festival in Los Angeles, and its sister website, TheBluegrassSituation.com, providing news and resources for fans of American roots music and culture.
Helms does have an interesting prior link to the University, having sung with the Hullabahoos, a male a capella group at U.Va., during a 2012 episode of “The Office.” The executive producer of that show, Halsted Sullivan, is a 1989 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences and was a founding member of the singing group.
Valedictory Exercises are scheduled to be held Friday, May 15 at 4 p.m. on the Lawn. The rain site is John Paul Jones Arena. The ceremony also will include the presentation of various awards and the bestowing of the class gift, as well as remarks from the class president and trustees and U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan.
The University announced the speakers for Final Exercises in in November. On Saturday, May 16, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will address graduates of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. On Sunday, May 17, Robert Bruner, dean of U.Va.’s Darden School of Business, will address the graduates of the University’s other 10 schools, plus the first graduates from U.Va.’s Data Science Institute.
For additional information on 2015 Finals Weekend, click here.