Craig T. Nelson, Emmy-winning actor and UArizona alumnus, will address graduates at Commencement

Craig T. Nelson

Originally from Spokane, Washington, Nelson drove his 1956 Studebaker from Spokane to Tucson in the fall of 1965 to attend the University of Arizona on a drama scholarship. In February, the stage in the university's Marroney Theatre became the Craig T. Nelson Stage.

Chris Richards/University Communications

Craig T. Nelson, an Emmy Award-winning actor, writer, director, producer and University of Arizona alumnus, will deliver the university's Commencement address on May 10.

To most of the graduates in attendance, Nelson will perhaps be best known for voicing Mr. Incredible in the 2004 Pixar film "The Incredibles." But his career spans decades of work across television, film and stage.

"There is, I believe, a desire within each of us to fulfill a destiny and to heed the call either spiritually or personally that we can make a difference," Nelson said. "I would wish that in sharing my experience, strength and hope that this generation of graduates will realize how important and integral they are in instilling a sense of renewal and compassion in a world that so desperately needs it – and them."

Nelson's career highlights include his iconic role as Hayden Fox in "Coach," which garnered him multiple Emmy nominations and a win in 1992. He also showcased his talent on Broadway in "Ah, Wilderness!" and left an indelible mark as Zeek Braverman in the TV show "Parenthood." Nelson's film credits include his starring role in the 1982 film "Poltergeist," as well as "All the Right Moves," "The Proposal," "Book Club," "The Family Stone," "I'm Not Rappaport," "Silkwood" and "The Osterman Weekend."

For the past five seasons, Nelson has guest starred in the CBS show "Young Sheldon" as Dale Ballard, love interest of Meemaw, played by Annie Potts.

Originally from Spokane, Washington, Nelson drove his 1956 Studebaker from Spokane to Tucson in the fall of 1965 to attend the University of Arizona on a drama scholarship. He attended the university for the next four years.

Much of Nelson's time was spent learning from Peter R. Marroney, who led the university's theater department for 36 years, and for whom the university's Marroney Theatre is named. Nelson credits his time working with Marroney for much of his career success.

Nelson left the university in 1969, before completing his degree, to accept a professional acting opportunity in Hollywood. He went on to establish a six-decade career that has made him one of the most recognizable figures in American film and television.

Nelson has maintained his ties to the university's School of Theatre, Film and Television. In 2018, he returned to Tucson to meet with students and take part in the launch of the public phase of a fundraising campaign to renovate Marroney Theatre. In February, after the renovations were completed, the theater's stage became the Craig T. Nelson Stage. An anonymous donation made the renaming possible.

"Having my name associated with the theater named for an early mentor of mine, Peter Marroney, is a humbling honor," Nelson said in February. "To the students who will benefit from this renewed facility: Follow your heart and dreams as you embark on a wonderful vocation that has given me so much."

"Craig T. Nelson's career embodies the determination and exploration that we hope to inspire in all our graduates," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "Speaking from his experience – both in life and as a Wildcat – Nelson will urge graduates to make bold decisions as they start their careers. Many of our 2024 graduates were unable to have a proper high school graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I can think of no better person to give these graduates the outstanding send-off they deserve."

Commencement will take place May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.