Baseball Great and UVA Alum Ryan Zimmerman Will Kick Off Graduation Weekend

April 1, 2024
Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Willingham, and Risa Goluboff

Clockwise from left, baseball star Ryan Zimmerman, psychology professor Daniel Willingham and outgoing Law School Dean Risa Goluboff will address graduating students during UVA’s Final Exercises Weekend in May. (Contributed photos; Willingham photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

A trio of hard hitters – including a literal one and two academic ones – will be the featured speakers for the University of Virginia’s Final Exercises Weekend May 17-19.

Ryan Zimmerman, a former UVA baseball star who retired in 2022 after 17 seasons with the Washington Nationals, will speak to graduating seniors at Valedictory Exercises on May 17 at 3:30 p.m. in John Paul Jones Arena. Zimmerman, the first player drafted by the then-new Washington team, earned the nickname “Mr. National” before retiring as the franchise leader in several statistics, including hits and homers.

The two-time all-star and member of the 2019 World Series Champion team also has been a dedicated philanthropist off the diamond. His ziMS Foundation has provided more than $4 million to fight multiple sclerosis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he was among the first professional athletes to raise funds for frontline health care workers.

The Cavalier baseball program honored him with “Ryan Zimmerman Day,” on April 30, 2022, drawing a record crowd of 5,919 to Disharoon Park. 

Ryan Zimmerman holds bat in Washington Nationals Uniform and holds son in Disharoon Park

Zimmerman, who retired from the Washington Nationals in 2022, was a standout player with the Cavaliers and had his number retired in front of a capacity crowd in 2022. (Photos by Matt Riley, University Communications; photo illustration by John DiJulio, University Communications)

Zimmerman has been recognized by several organizations for his dedication to community service. He lives in McLean with his wife, Heather, and their four children. He continues to work with the Nationals after his retirement as a player.

Daniel Willingham, a popular and oft-quoted psychology professor, will be the featured speaker on May 18 when students from the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the School of Education and Human Development walk the Lawn. On Sunday, Risa Goluboff, the outgoing dean of the School of Law, will address graduating Wahoos from the remaining nine schools.

Willingham began teaching at UVA in 1992. He studies human learning, focusing on students from kindergarten through college. He is the author of several books, including the recently published, “Outsmart Your Brain: Why Your Brain Makes Learning Hard and How You Can Make It Easy.”

“I’m honored to have been asked to address the Class of 2024, and I look forward to using my remarks to celebrate their achievements,” Willingham said. “And if it is a hot day, I promise to celebrate for five fewer minutes.”

Goluboff is finishing her final semester as dean of the Law School, a post she has held eight years.

Under Goluboff’s leadership, the ranks of law faculty swelled, as did the school’s fundraising. A legal historian, Goluboff joined the Law School faculty in 2002. She is the author of two books and is a 2011 winner of the All-University Teaching Award. 

Although she will relinquish her leadership role in June, Goluboff will remain at UVA to teach.

“I am thrilled and honored to speak to the Class of 2024 as they get ready for their next adventures,” Goluboff said. “UVA has been my home throughout my career as a faculty member and then dean of the School of Law. Given my own transition this summer, I feel like I am ‘graduating’ in a way as well, so I look forward to sending us all off together.”

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Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications