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Renowned entrepreneur and motivational speaker Chris Gardner to address graduates at Marshall University’s 2024 Commencement 

Marshall University officials are pleased to announce that Chris Gardner, acclaimed American businessman, motivational speaker and author will serve as the commencement speaker for the Class of 2024.  

The commencement ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday, April 27, at the Marshall Health Arena in Huntington.  

Gardner’s remarkable journey from homelessness to success has inspired millions around the globe. As the founder and CEO of Gardner Rich LLC, he has demonstrated exceptional resilience, determination and compassion throughout his career. His bestselling autobiography, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” was made into a movie starring Will Smith in 2006.  

Marshall University President Brad D. Smith expressed his excitement about Gardner’s selection as the commencement speaker.

“Chris Gardner embodies the spirit of Marshall University. His personal story, professional accomplishments, grace, and compassion resonate deeply with our mission to educate students, many of whom are from overlooked and underserved communities,” Smith said.  “Marshall University is proud to celebrate individuals who, like Chris, have overcome adversity to achieve extraordinary success.” 

The commencement ceremonies are scheduled for 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., allowing graduates, families and friends to join in the celebration of the significant milestone. All guests should be aware of the following when planning to attend the events.  


Parking is available in the parking garage on Third Avenue across from Marshall Health Arena. In addition, parking is available in the Pullman Square garages for a minimal fee. All three parking garages are within reasonable walking distance of the arena.  


Marshall Health Arena has implemented security procedures such as walk-through metal detectors for all events occurring in the building, including Marshall’s commencement ceremonies. Graduates and guests should allow additional time to make it through security and find seats before the ceremony begins. 

Prohibited items include illegal drugs or substances, outside food and drink, knives, guns, pepper spray, lasers, glow sticks, fireworks, wallet chains, sharp spiked jewelry, selfie sticks, tripods and umbrellas. It is important to note the arena has a clear bag policy. For a full list of prohibited items, please visit 


Professional photographers will be at the stage area during the ceremony to take pictures of each graduate. 

Ceremony available on the web 

The commencement ceremonies will be streamed live on the web. The link will be available on the main Marshall University website at 

Additional details for attendees are available at 

Photo caption: Chris Gardner, acclaimed American businessman, motivational speaker and author will serve as the 2024 Marshall University commencement speaker.  Photo courtesey of Chris Gardner Media.

Media Contact

Leah Payne
Director of University Communications
Marketing & Communications