Davis & Elkins College alumnus and Pixar writer Jason Headley ’96 will return to his alma mater to deliver the Commencement address to the class of 2022 on Saturday, May 7. Two ceremonies are planned – one at 10 a.m. for students in nursing, education and sport science, and natural science, and one at 1 p.m. for students in social science, business, humanities and creative arts.
“D&E is excited to welcome our own Jason Headley ‘96 back to campus as we celebrate our newest graduates,” said President Chris A. Wood. “As D&E was so influential in the success Jason has experienced, we have high expectations that these past years on the D&E campus have prepared our new graduates for fulfilling lives and careers. Saturday will be a great day to be a Senator!”
Headley’s speech will center on the Davis & Elkins College experience.
“I’m focusing my address on the uniqueness of knowing exactly what it’s like to graduate from this exact college, in this exact auditorium,” Headley said. “And on the challenge of offering advice that won’t be utterly forgotten the moment I stop talking, if not before.”
Returning to campus to address graduates will bring special meaning to Headley, he says. Joining him on stage for a special introduction will be classmate and longtime friend, D&E Instructor of Theatre and Film Lonnie Martin ’02.
“As it grows closer, it’s beginning to dawn on me how special this is,” Headley said. “I haven’t been back on campus in over a decade, so that alone will be a real cascade of sense memory. And to have Lonnie Martin, one of my dearest friends in this whole wide world, introduce me before my address … and to have my parents and my grandpa there, 26 years after they watched me graduate … . I’m just going to take it all in and be very present and appreciate that this is a true once-in-a-lifetime moment.”
Headley graduated from Davis & Elkins College in 1996 with degrees in environmental science and political science. His chosen career took a different direction. He co-wrote Pixar’s “Lightyear” and “Onward,” and has multiple other credits to his name.
“My transition from graduating D&E to making films was a journey of a thousand tiny turns,” Headley explained. “Just paying attention to where I truly found some version of meaning in life, picking up things I enjoyed, putting down things I did not. It’s a journey that continues to this very day.”
Somewhere along the way, the Paden City, West Virginia, native made good choices that led him on the path to success. “Lightyear,” a computer-animated science-fiction action-adventure film, is set for release in the United States on June 17 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. “Onward,” released in 2020, scored the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Family Movie that year.
Headley also wrote and directed the SXSW Special Jury Prize-winning feature “A Bad Idea Gone Wrong.” His short films – including the viral videos “It’s Not About the Nail” and “F*ck That: An Honest Meditation” – have been featured at Banksy’s Dismaland, NBC’s “TODAY Show,” SundanceTV, the TED Conference and Vimeo Staff Picks, among others.
A Cinereach Fellow, as well as a former IFP/Gotham Labs Fellow and member of SFFILM FilmHouse, Headley has been commissioned by Heineken, Sony, and Chrysler to write, direct, and produce original short films.
In addition to the Commencement Ceremonies, the Davis & Elkins College Commencement Weekend includes a traditional Nurses’ Pinning at 2 p.m. Friday, May 6 and two Baccalaureate Services at 5 p.m. for students in nursing, education and sport science, and natural science, and at 8 p.m. for students in social science, business, humanities and creative arts. All ceremonies will take place in Myles Center for the Arts Harper-McNeeley Auditorium.
In addition to seating in the auditorium, space will be available in Myles Center for the Arts Senate Commons where guests can view Baccalaureate Services and Commencement Ceremonies via live stream video.
To ensure the safety and health of everyone, unvaccinated members of the campus community and unvaccinated guests are required to wear a mask. Masks will be available from any D&E staff member at the entrance to the auditorium.