Writer Wright Thompson to Give Commencement Address

University's 171st annual Commencement begins May 8

A bearded man wearing a sportcoat shakes hands with a student wearing a Boys State T-shirt.

OXFORD, Miss. – An Oxonian and Mississippi native will take the stage this year at the University of Mississippi's 171st annual Commencement.

Wright Thompson, an award-winning senior writer for ESPN and author of two bestselling books, will deliver the address at Convocation, set for 9 a.m. May 11 in the Grove.

"Wright Thompson is an acclaimed writer and a gifted storyteller – traits that align with our university's rich literary legacy," Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. "We're honored to welcome this renowned native Mississippian as our Commencement speaker, and we look forward to the anecdotes and wisdom he will share with the Class of 2024."

Thompson began his writing career as a student journalist at the University of Missouri, where he was a columnist and sportswriter for the Columbia Missourian.

Following graduation, Thompson worked for Kansas City Star and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Throughout his career, he has reported on major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby and the Masters.

In 2006, Thompson joined ESPN full time, where he writes for the website and magazine. He has written a variety of sports features and profiles of influential figures such as Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and NBA executive Pat Riley.

He was the inaugural winner of the Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting and received a Sports Emmy for his ESPN:60 article on bare-handed fishing. Thompson also won the Media Eclipse Award for his long-form horseracing article "The Legend of Zenyatta."

In addition, Thompson is executive producer of “True South,” the SEC Network and Hulu program that he co-created with UM writer-in-residence John T Edge. Now in its seventh season, the series tells stories of their home through the personalities and distinctive cultures of the region’s beloved restaurants.

Thompson is author of two bestselling books "The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business" (Penguin Publishing Group, 2019) and "Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon and the Things That Last" (Penguin, 2020).

In his upcoming book, "The Barn," he explores the life and murder of Emmett Till, a black teen who was tortured and killed 23 miles from Thompson's hometown of Clarksdale in 1955.

Till's death helped spark the Civil Rights Movement, but despite decades, arrests and acquittals, facts about Till's death have been largely erased and forgotten. "The Barn" is scheduled for publication in September 2024.

Commencement exercises will be held May 8-12 in various locations across campus. For more information, see the 2024 Commencement website.


Clara Turnage


Office, Department or Center


April 30, 2024