University of Utah President David W. Pershing and the Board of Trustees announced today that world-renowned mountain climber, filmmaker, author, philanthropist and University of Utah alum Conrad Anker will deliver the 2017 commencement address on Thursday, May 4, 2017.
Anker was featured in the 2015 Sundance film, “Meru,” which chronicles his attempt to lead the first team to summit the notoriously difficult Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru in northern India. Anker was a founding member of The North Face Climbing Team and began his relationship with the outdoor company as a retail employee while he was a student at the U. He graduated in 1988 with a degree in recreation and leisure.
“I want all of the graduates, regardless of how they choose to define success, to find greatness within themselves,” Anker said. “That’s why I’m thankful for the opportunity to come back to the University of Utah to deliver this message to the class of 2017.”
Anker began climbing at a young age and jokes that he chose to attend the U because the brochure showed mountains in the background.
“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 reality of the school’s close proximity to nature allowed Anker to enjoy the outdoors while taking classes. He worked for the school’s campus recreation program and found his business courses to be especially useful and even started a company while in school. He eventually sold the startup, KÜHL, for $10,000, which he used to go climbing.
“Conrad understands the power and majesty of nature and climbs to better understand both human potential and human limits,” said Daniel Dustin, professor of outdoor recreation studies at the U. “His sensibilities, interests and commitments extend far beyond mountain climbing.”
Anker gained mainstream fame in 1999 when he discovered the body of George Mallory, who disappeared during an attempt to become the first person to reach the top of Mount Everest in 1924. The same year, Anker lost his friend and climbing partner Alex Lowe in an avalanche in Tibet. Lowe left behind a wife and three children. Eventually Anker married Lowe’s widow, Jenni Lowe-Anker, and adopted the three boys. The two established the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation to provide “direction and financial support to sustainable, community-based humanitarian programs designed to help the people who live in remote regions of the world,” according to the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation’s website.
“I admire Conrad for his personal qualities as much as his professional achievements,” Dustin said. “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. I am confident the graduating class will be well rewarded for attending the commencement exercise.”
Anker serves on the boards of the American Himalayan Foundation, Montana State University Leadership Institute, Protect Our Winters, and the Gallatin County Fair Board. He does philanthropic work in Nepal and climbs with PTSD-affected veterans in Montana.
“I want graduates to live in the moment,” Anker said. “Utahns are known for their kindness and generosity. The goodness that comes from being part of the U community is something that will always be with you and that you can share around the world.”
General commencement exercises will be held Thursday, May 4, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center on the University of Utah campus.