Willem Dafoe, Dwyane Wade Are Coming to Milwaukee for Graduations

The stars are coming out for upcoming local college commencement ceremonies.

Dwyane Wade, a three-time NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist will serve as Marquette University’s undergraduate commencement speaker on May 22.

Wade led the Marquette men’s basketball team to the Final Four in 2003, highlighted by his 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists that led Marquette past No. 1-overall seed Kentucky in the Elite Eight. He was a consensus first-team All-American and was named both the Conference USA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

Meanwhile, Academy Award nominated actor Willem Dafoe will return to his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, to receive an honorary Doctor of Arts degree and be the featured speaker at the university’s two commencement ceremonies, also on May 22.

Dafoe will speak at both the 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. ceremonies taking place at the UWM Panther Arena. He will receive his honorary degree at the afternoon ceremony.

Wade will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the Marquette commencement, which will take place at Summerfest’s American Family Insurance Amphitheater.

“He is a credit to the transformational experience our university offers its students and, in turn, has been a great source of excitement and pride to the Marquette community,” Marquette President Michael Lovell said of Wade.

Wade attended Marquette from 2000-03 and was selected No. 5 overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. He played the bulk of his career with the Miami Heat, winning league championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013. He was named NBA Finals MVP in 2006, MVP of the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, and was chosen as one of the league’s 75 Greatest Players in NBA history in conjunction with the league’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2021. He also represented the United States twice at the Olympic Games, winning a gold medal in Beijing in 2008.

Wade is a businessman involved in various projects and recently joined the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake ownership groups.



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Through his partnership with WarnerMedia, Wade serves as a regular analyst for TNT’s Tuesday night NBA studio coverage and is a creative director for Bleacher Report. Wade executive produces and hosts the award-winning British game show reboot of “The Cube” on TBS. He is a board of trustee member for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and recently joined the University of California-Davis Executive Leadership Board for the department of Viticulture and Enology to support their efforts in bringing more diversity to the wine industry.

Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, recently launched Proudly, a sustainable baby care brand made specifically for babies and children of color. Founder of 59th & Prairie Entertainment, he is an executive producer of “D. Wade: Life Unexpected,” the Sports Emmy–nominated documentary Shot in the Dark, the Oscar-winning animated short “Hair Love,” and “Legacy: In The Shadow of Greatness.”

He is the New York Times bestselling author of “A Father First,” co-authored the New York Times bestselling children’s book “Shady Baby,” and recently released his photographic memoir DWYANE.

Wade cofounded the Social Change Fund United to invest in and support organizations focused on empowering communities of color and advocating for the human rights of all Black lives. The Wade Family Foundation provides relief to marginalized communities in need. Wade remains committed to using his platform to help advance racial justice and LGBTQ+ equality.

Wade’s support of Marquette University includes the Boys and Girls Clubs Youth of the Year program and Marquette’s Hartman Literacy and Learning Center where he established the Live to Dream Summer Reading Program.

Wade was inducted into the Marquette M Club Hall of Fame in 2009 and was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2019.

Dafoe attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1973 and 1974 before leaving to become part of Theatre X, which started as a faculty-student workshop and then became an independent experimental theater company. Some of his first acting work came on UWM stages, when he appeared in Jean Racine’s “Phaedra” and Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten.”

“My time at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was a very formative and positive experience,” Dafoe said. “I was young and very unsophisticated, but eager to train and perform. I was totally involved and spent most nights on a couch in the theatre because I was always working and studying and didn’t want to go home.”

Dafoe has been recognized with four Academy Award nominations: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Oliver Stone’s Platoon, E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, as well as Best Leading Actor for Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate.

“We are thrilled to have Willem Dafoe return to UWM,” Chancellor Mark Mone said. “He is one of the most accomplished and gifted actors of our time and a great example for our students and graduates about how passion, determination and hard work result in success.”



Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.