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Actor, former White House aide Kal Penn to speak at UT Arlington's Graduation Celebration

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

News Topics: College Park Center, students

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UPDATE: Graduation Celebration, UT Arlington's annual celebration of the graduating class, will take place inside College Park Center, 601 Spaniolo Drive (formerly Pecan Street) in Arlington tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Originally planned outdoors at Levitt Pavilion, the event is moving indoors because heavy rains have saturated the pavilion grounds and more inclement weather is predicted throughout today and this evening.

The event is free and no tickets are required. Free parking available in all campus lots and the parking garages just north of College Park Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.


Actor, producer and former White House aide Kal Penn will give this year’s keynote address at UT Arlington’s Graduation Celebration honoring the Class of 2013.

Kal Penn

Kal Penn

Graduation Celebration is set for Friday, May 10, at the Levitt Pavilion in Founder’s Square, 100 W. Abram St., in downtown Arlington.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. with live music and free food. The formal program starts at 8 p.m.

The outdoor, end-of-the-year celebration is open to the public. Also on the program are President James D. Spaniolo and Rene Grimes, an education graduate student, who will represent the Class of 2013.

Penn, 35, is well known for his starring roles in “House,” “24” and the popular “Harold and Kumar” franchise. But Penn, the son of Indian immigrants, interrupted his acting career midstream to work full-time in politics. He has since returned to his acting career.

In 2009, he joined the Obama administration as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, where he focused on work related to increasing financial aid for college students and other related initiatives.

“I had buddies who had huge student debt, people who got kicked off their health insurance plans for one reason or another,” Penn has said of his reasons for joining the Obama administration, “And so that was my decision to get involved on a personal level.”

Last year, he was tapped to speak during the Democratic National Convention. (View a YouTube version of the speech here.)

Penn says his interest in politics also stems from his grandparents, who marched for India’s independence.

He returned to television in 2011 with a new role on the hit sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” He also starred in the blockbuster movie, “Superman Returns.” The New York Times called his lead role in Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” a “crackling, star-making performance.”

Named one of People magazine’s Top 50 Bachelors, Penn earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCLA. He also studied international security at Stanford University. He has served as an adjunct lecturer in sociology, film, and Asian American studies at the University of Pennsylvania.  

In case of inclement weather, Graduation Celebration will move inside College Park Center, 601 Spaniolo Drive.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,800 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. Visit to learn more.

For information about UT Arlington commencement ceremonies, visit


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.