Conrad Anker To Speak at 2017 U of U Commencement

Conrad anker

He’s no Deepok Chopra or Will Ferrell (USC), Oprah Winfrey (Smith College) or Mark Zuckerberg (Harvard), or even Starbuck’s Howard Schultz (Arizona State), but when he takes the podium this Thursday, May 4, for the 2017 University of Utah commencement address, there’s no better representative of the outside world than Conrad Anker.

The famous mountaineer, filmmaker, author and U alumnus has built a career scaling the most demanding terrain in the world. It’s not the proverbial climb but the real ones he can attest to. Oh, let the metaphors fly.

“I want graduates to live in the moment,” Anker said in the U’s press release. “(and also) what responsibilities do we have today that were not present in 1988? What opportunities do we have the good fortune to explore?…Students should do the right thing for the people who will live 200 years from now.” Anker says he’ll focus on how the world has changed since he graduated with – of course- a degree in rec and leisure in 1988.

Conrad Anker’s Challenges

Even in college, Conrad Anker had a head for business; helping to start Utah’s Alfwear (Kühl) clothing company where they could make hats and later clothes for ski bums. He sold his part of the company just after graduation to pursue dreams of summitting the world’s highest peaks. He topped Mount Everest three times, once without supplemental oxygen. But the most well-known of the three was when his team retraced George Mallory and Sandy Irvine’s fateful path when they were lost in 1924. Anker and team found Mallory’s frozen, preserved body in 1999 but still the mystery of who summitted Everest first – Mallory or Sir Edmund Hillary lasts.

Anker has lost friends, suffered critical injuries, failed to summit on expeditions and even survived a heart attack while hanging from rock and ice on the tallest unclimbed mountain in Nepal, just last year. “I admire Conrad for his personal qualities as much as his professional achievements,” said Daniel Dustin, professor in the Parks, Recreation and Tourism program. “He understands life’s challenging nature, and he understands how reacting to adversity tells us more about a person’s character than when things go right.”

Anker, however, says he won’t spray about himself in his commencement speech. He wants to motivate graduates to think about the future as they move into the workforce; to be creative and intelligent, and consider the generations who will follow them.

“Conrad Anker, like so many of our students, was attracted to the natural beauty of this state,” said U President David W. Pershing. “We are grateful he chose the University of Utah, and we are proud of him as an alumnus. His extraordinary achievements and strength of character are inspiring.”

The May 4th commencement begins at 6:30 pm in the Jon M. Huntsman Center on the University of Utah campus. It will also stream live on or online via If you miss those, set your DVR to KUED, channel 7, Saturday, May 6, at 5:30 p.m. MDT.


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