USC’s 139th commencement ceremony will take on a victorious spirit when Allyson Felix, Trojan alumna and renowned athlete and activist, delivers the keynote address in May.
“Allyson has already inspired the world as a runner and used her platform to push for women’s health and women’s rights,” said USC President Carol L. Folt.
Her spirit and her message will inspire our students as they set out to make their mark on the world.
Carol L. Folt, USC president
“Her spirit and her message will inspire our students as they set out to make their mark on the world.”
More than 15,000 degrees will be conferred during the May 13 ceremony. As many as 60,000 are expected to attend, and countless others around the world will watch online.
Felix will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the commencement ceremony.
USC commencement speaker: Los Angeles roots, Trojan traditions
Felix, who has described herself as “a Los Angeles girl through and through,” grew up a Trojan fan.
She is the daughter of an ordained minister and her mother is an elementary school teacher. Her older brother Wes is also a USC alum and a Pac-10 champion in the 200-meter dash in 2003 and 2004.
Felix first connected with track and field at Los Angeles Baptist High School, where her slight exterior belied a powerful human engine. She was named High School Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News in 2003.
She turned pro in 2003, the same year she enrolled at USC. She became an international track star, winning her first Olympic medal in 2004 in Athens — a silver in the 200-meter dash — as a sophomore. Shortly after earning her bachelor’s degree from the USC Rossier School of Education in 2008, she won her first Olympic gold in Beijing.
Felix took home three gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and two more at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
In the Tokyo Games last year, Felix ran her last race as an Olympic athlete at the age of 35. The wins brought her career total to 11 Olympic medals — seven gold, three silver, one bronze — making her the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete ever, surpassing famed sprinter Carl Lewis.
Allyson Felix: championing women’s rights
She earned her 11th Olympic medal after embarking on one of the most challenging and rewarding journeys of her life — to be a mother — and chose to publicly take on one of the largest companies in the world and her employer, Nike.
Felix knew her decision to start a family could end her career, but she fought for contractual protections during and after pregnancy while turning the national spotlight on working mothers and child care needs.
Other Olympians followed her lead. Soon after, many major brands announced new policies and protections. Felix also went on to become the first sponsored athlete for Athleta, a line of athletic apparel for women.
Felix was open about a difficult pregnancy and birth after her daughter, Camryn, was born in 2018. Felix has called Camryn “by far my greatest accomplishment.”
Motivated by her life-threatening experience, Felix testified before the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means on the topic of the Black maternal mortality crisis in America in 2019.