Novelist John Grisham, Violinist Boyd Tinsley to Speak at U.Va.'s Finals Weekend, May 19-20

May 4, 2007 -- Best-selling novelist John Grisham and acclaimed violinist Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band will provide the oratorical highlights at the University of Virginia’s 178th Finals Weekend, May 19-20.

Grisham, who rose to prominence during the 1990s as the master of the legal thriller, will speak on May 20 at Final Exercises, which begin at 10 a.m. with a colorful academic procession down U.Va.’s historic Lawn. The University will confer approximately 6,100 undergraduate, graduate and first professional degrees. More than 30,000 people are expected at the ceremony.

Grisham published his first novel, “A Time to Kill,” in 1988. He followed that with “The Firm,” the top-selling novel of 1991, and more than a dozen other bestsellers. In all, he has written 18 novels, nine of which have been turned into films. There are currently more than 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 46 languages. In 2006, he published his first work of nonfiction, “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town,” which recounted the story of a man wrongfully convicted of murder in Oklahoma.

 Born in Jonesboro, Ark., Grisham attended Mississippi State University before graduating from law school at the University of Mississippi. For almost a decade he practiced law in Southaven, Miss., specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. He also served in Mississippi’s state legislature from 1983 to 1990. In addition to writing, Grisham has devoted time to charitable causes, including his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised $8.8 million for Hurricane Katrina relief.

Grisham and his wife Renee split their time between their farm in Mississippi and a home near Charlottesville. The Grishams have two children, Ty (a 2005 graduate of U.Va.) and Shea.
Tinsley will speak on May 19 at Valedictory Exercises, also to be held on the Lawn, beginning at 11 a.m. The ceremony, organized by the Class of 2007, also includes the announcement of class awards and presentation of the class gift.

A Charlottesville native and former U.Va. student, Tinsley joined the Dave Matthews Band in 1991. The band performed regularly in local nightclubs before its 1994 hit recording, “Under the Table and Dreaming,” and has 15 other albums to its credit. In 2003, Tinsley released his first solo record, “True Reflections.”

When Tinsley is not making music, he dedicates much of his time and effort to the community. Through the Boyd Tinsley Fund, underprivileged youth in the Charlottesville City Schools receive music lessons and academic tutoring. The Boyd Tinsley Tennis Program was established to provide instruction, equipment and transportation to Charlottesville youths interested in pursuing the sport. Tinsley’s commitment to tennis in Charlottesville also inspired his generous contribution to construct a state-of-the-art tennis facility for the University of Virginia tennis teams.

For information on Finals Weekend, visit