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John Carroll University has selected two speakers to deliver keynote addresses during 2021 Commencement Exercises in May.

Sean P. Nolan ’90, former President and Chief Executive Officer of AveXis, Inc., will deliver the keynote address for the Graduate ceremony on Thursday, May 20 at 6 p.m.

Pete Williams, justice correspondent for NBC News, former government official, and friend of the late Tim Russert ’72, will deliver the keynote address for the Undergraduate ceremony on Sunday, May 23 at 11 a.m. 

Both ceremonies and speeches will be livestreamed via

Sean P. Nolan is a graduate of the John Carroll Class of 1990. He served as President and Chief Executive Officer of AveXis, Inc., and as a member of the Board of Directors for the company from June 2015 to May 2018. AveXis Inc. was a clinical-stage gene therapy company dedicated to developing, manufacturing, and commercializing novel treatments for patients suffering from rare and life-threatening neurological genetic diseases. Avexis was acquired by Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical company in May 2018. Nolan previously served as the Chief Business Officer of InterMune (Feb. 2013-Apr. 2015), Chief Commercial Officer at Reata Pharmaceuticals (Aug. 2011-Dec. 2012), and earned his Bachelor of Arts in biology from John Carroll University in 1990. Nolan currently serves on the board of directors of Ventas, Inc. and serves as Chairman of Encoded Therapeutics and Affinia Therapeutics, and Executive Chairman of Jaguar Gene Therapy and Istari Oncology, Inc.

Pete Williams is a justice correspondent for NBC News and has held the position since 1993. Stationed in Washington, D.C., Williams reports on news from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout his career with NBC News, Williams has received three national news Emmy awards. Prior to his career as a journalist, Williams served as press secretary and legislative assistant in the staff of U.S. Representative Dick Cheney in 1986. When Cheney was appointed as United States Secretary of Defense following the election of George H.W. Bush in 1989, Williams served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Williams graduated from Stanford in 1974 and received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Wyoming in 2012 for his contributions to the journalism field.

For more information on John Carroll University’s 2021 Commencement Exercises, please visit