UNC Greensboro today announced that Olympic speed skating gold medalist, NBC Winter Olympics commentator and internationally-recognized humanitarian leader Joey Cheek will deliver the keynote address at the university’s May 4 Commencement at the Greensboro Coliseum.
A Greensboro native, Cheek won gold and silver medals at the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, in 2006. He won his first ever international medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, a bronze in the 1,000 meters, and has accumulated more than 25 World Cup and World Championship medals throughout the course of his career. Most recently, Cheek completed his first stint as a broadcaster covering speed skating for NBC at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Cheek was named to TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, the U.S. Speed Skating Hall of Fame and the International Sports Humanitarians Hall of Fame. He even got to be on the Wheaties box.
“We are thrilled to have Joey address the class of 2018,” said Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. “He exemplifies the values we work to instill in our Spartans – a tenacious work ethic and commitment to excellence that leads to real, meaningful impact on our world. As our graduates look to the next chapter of their lives, to what is possible, his story is inspirational and aspirational. His Olympic dream came true, but he did not stop there. He used that success as a springboard to achieve even greater things as a humanitarian. I am confident he will inspire our graduates to forge their path and take giant steps in every area of their lives.”
After winning gold in Torino, Cheek turned his talents to worthy charitable causes. He announced he’d donate his Olympic winnings, totaling $40,000, to Right to Play, helping refugees driven from their homes in the Darfur crisis in western Sudan. He then challenged others to donate as well. In total, Cheek raised $1.5 million in charitable donations to aid Right to Play. In 2006, Cheek cofounded Team Darfur, an international coalition of more than 500 athletes around the globe, to continue to advocate and fundraise for the people from that region.
Since ending his athletic career, Cheek has worked as a corporate speaker with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, started a digital sports content company, and currently serves on the board of the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame.
Commencement speakers at UNCG date back to 1893, with then-Governor Elias Carr addressing the students. Since that time, the university has welcomed ambassadors, governors, authors, university presidents, professors, bishops, ministers and other notable speakers throughout its history.
Photography provided by Joey Cheek