Airbnb Co-Founder, CEO and Head of Community Brian Chesky to Deliver Keynote Address at Rhode Island School of Design’s 2017 Commencement

A RISD graduate, Chesky will accept an honorary degree, as will fellow alumnus and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, designer Christina Kim + artist Kehinde Wiley

PROVIDENCE, RI – On Saturday, June 3 at 10:30AM, 488 undergraduate and 238 graduate students from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will receive their diplomas at RISD’s 2017 Commencement. The ceremony will take place at the Rhode Island Convention Center in downtown Providence, where the annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition is also on view.

This year RISD will present four honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees to change-makers in contemporary culture. Airbnb co-founder and RISD alumnus Brian Chesky (RISD ’04 Industrial Design) is accepting an honorary degree and will also deliver the Commencement keynote address. Chesky’s Airbnb co-founder and fellow graduate Joe Gebbia (RISD ’05 Graphic Design/Industrial Design), painter Kehinde Wiley and designer Christina Kim will accept honorary degrees at the ceremony as well. In addition, cartoonist Roz Chast (RISD ’77 Painting) is being honored with the 2017 Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement.

Brian Chesky | keynote speaker + honorary degree recipient
Brian Chesky is the co-founder, CEO and Head of Community at Airbnb, which he started with fellow RISD graduate Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk in 2008. Based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace that provides access to millions of unique accommodations in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. Chesky sets the company’s strategy to connect people to unique travel experiences, and drives Airbnb’s mission to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. Originally from New York, he earned a BFA in Industrial Design from RISD in 2004.

Joe Gebbia | honorary degree recipient
Joe Gebbia, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Airbnb, serves on the Board of Directors and Executive staff, while leading Samara, the company’s in-house design and innovation studio. An entrepreneur from an early age, Gebbia’s role within the company is to instill a culture of creativity, while leading the development of new opportunities. He is also responsible for the development of a humanitarian initiative throughout the company. Gebbia has spoken globally about entrepreneurship and design, and has received numerous distinctions. His lifelong appreciation for art and design led him to RISD, where he earned dual degrees in Graphic Design and Industrial Design. Joe now serves on the institution's Board of Trustees.

Christina Kim | honorary degree recipient
Since founding her Los Angeles-based studio dosa in 1984, Christina Kim has transformed what started as an artistic experiment into a focused and articulate design firm known for creating sustainable goods of enduring value. Her inventive approach to reuse and recycling has resulted in an expansive body of work that includes apparel and accessories sold at dosa’s retail space in SoHo, along with specialty shops throughout the world. Kim’s ever-evolving design process involves using cutting-room waste to create innovative products, some of which were shown most recently in the Cooper Hewitt exhibition Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse.

Kehinde Wiley | honorary degree recipient
As a descendant of a long line of classical portrait painters, Kehinde Wiley uses the visual rhetoric of the heroic, powerful, majestic and sublime in his representations of contemporary urban people of color. By applying the visual vocabulary and historic conventions of glorification, wealth and prestige to his subject matter, he paints provocative portraits rich in ambiguity. Based in New York, Wiley earned a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute and an MFA from Yale. His paintings are included in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan in NYC and more than 40 other major museums. In 2015 Wiley accepted a Medal of Arts from the US Department of State.

Roz Chast | alumni award for artistic achievement
The 2017 Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement will be presented to Roz Chast (RISD ’77 Painting) at Commencement. Chast has been contributing memorable cartoons and covers to the The New Yorker since 1978. She has illustrated several children’s books, contributed to numerous humor collections, exhibited and lectured widely and received several honorary doctorates, along with a 2015 Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities. Chast’s moving memoir about the death of her aging parents, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (2014), quickly rose to the top of the New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists for graphic novels and was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award.

A series of exhibitions leading up to Commencement will highlight new works produced by graduating students, including the Senior Invitational Exhibition at Woods-Gerry Gallery, the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition at the RI Convention Center, a selection of graduate student works at Sol Koffler Gallery, a student-curated exhibition at the Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery in the Chace Center and the Senior Film/Animation/Video Festival at the RISD Auditorium.

RISD’s exuberant Commencement ceremony offers a festive culmination to years of creative exploration in the studio. Students typically transform their caps and gowns in idiosyncratic ways – by painting, reimagining and embellishing them to make a more personal artistic statement or simply to have fun with this colorful RISD tradition. For more information on RISD’s 2017 Commencement and to view the ceremony streaming live on June 3, visit

About Rhode Island School of Design
Known as the leading college of art and design in the United States, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is ranked #1 in Business Insider’s survey of The World’s 25 Best Design Schools. Approximately 2,450 students from around the world are enrolled in full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 majors. Students value RISD’s accomplished faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on approach to studio-based learning. Required courses in the liberal arts enrich the studio experience, equipping graduates to make meaningful contributions to their communities. Through their creative thinking and problem solving in a broad range of fields, RISD’s 26,000 alumni exemplify the vital role artists and designers play in fueling global innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit and