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Communication Alumnus to Speak at UW Commencement

June 2019

When Rick Welts began his NBA career as a ball boy for the Seattle SuperSonics, he never imagined he would one day be president and chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors, leading his team to a historic fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. And when he graduated from the UW College of Arts & Sciences in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, he never thought he’d be the featured speaker at a future UW commencement. But on June 15, Welts will deliver the UW’s 2019 commencement address.

Rick Welts headshot

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Welts’ first job was as an assistant in the public relations office at the Seattle SuperSonics, where he spent the next decade gaining experience. He then worked in the NBA league office in New York City and served as president of the NBA Phoenix Suns before joining the Golden State Warriors. In his current role, he oversees all business-related operations for the Warriors. One of the most respected business executives in the league, Welts owns the rare distinction of being a part of championship teams in the NBA, WNBA, and NBA G League. Last year he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018.

“In my business, you try to win championships, but occasionally there’s a huge surprise you never could have anticipated. For me that was being inducted into the Hall of Fame last year,” he said. “To have that be followed up by being asked to be commencement speaker at the UW — I can’t call it a dream come true, because I never would have dreamt it.”

Welts is also the highest ranking executive in men’s professional team sports to publicly acknowledge he is gay, and has become a leader in the LGBTQIA+ community.  He has received many honors for his advocacy for inclusion, including the United States Tennis Association’s 2011 ICON Award, GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) Respect Award, and the Davidson/Valentini Award from GLAAD, which is presented to an LGBT media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality for the LGBT community.

...being asked to be commencement speaker at the UW — I can’t call it a dream come true, because I never would have dreamt it.

“Rick Welts’ courageous leadership in the NBA and his advocacy for inclusion and equity on and off the court are an inspiring example for our students,” says UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “We’re proud to call him a Husky and look forward to welcoming him as our featured commencement speaker this year.

The University of Washington’s 144th Commencement ceremonies will take place on June 15 at 1:30 p.m. at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium.