DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Joe Keery to honor Class of 2020

'Stranger Things' actor Joe Keery to join online commencement

Ceremonies are set for June 13 to celebrate the Class of 2020

Joe Keery
DePaul alumnus and actor Joe Keery will join the online celebrations to honor the Class of 2020. (Image courtesy of Joe Keery)
Strange times can be a great catalyst for creativity and connection. No one understands this better than Joe Keery, the 2014 DePaul grad who plays Steve Harrington on the sci-fi horror Netflix series, “Stranger Things.” Keery, who earned a BFA in acting from The Theatre School, will be a special guest at this year’s online commencement June 13. 

“DePaul has always been proud to call Joe one of our own,” says DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D. “Joe’s participation will be meaningful to our graduates because he knows what it means to be a DePaul student. As a fan of his work on ‘Stranger Things,’ I am excited for him to join us in celebrating the Class of 2020.” 

Greeting grads via video, Keery will welcome an estimated 6,250 new graduates into the fold, on behalf of the 190,000 DePaul alumni living throughout the world. 

Just a few years ago, Keery graduated from DePaul and was waiting tables in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. He went on more than 100 auditions, trying out for roles in plays, theatre and commercials before he got his first major television role as Steve Harrington on “Stranger Things.” 

It turned out to be his big break. Now in production on its fourth season, “Stranger Things” was watched by 64 million households in a single month last summer, according to Netflix. On the show, Keery plays a 1980s high school heartthrob who grapples with monsters from a parallel universe, as well as big teenage emotions, ego and hair. In 2017, the Screen Actors Guild recognized the cast with the Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. In 2018 the series was named TV Program of the Year by the American Film Institute. 

Keery also has appeared on the FOX’s Golden Globe nominated series “Empire” and had a recurring role on NBC’s “Chicago Fire.” He has previously appeared in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut “Molly’s Game,” opposite Jessica Chastain; and the comedy horror “Slice” starring Chance the Rapper. He will next be seen in the action-adventure comedy “Free Guy” opposite Ryan Reynolds, and is slated to star in the upcoming drama “Spree,” which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. 

Spring Awakening
Joe Keery singing front and center in The Theatre School’s 2012 production of “Spring Awakening,” directed by Damon Kiely, at DePaul’s historic Merle Reskin Theatre. (DePaul University/Michael Brosilow)
During his time at DePaul, Keery performed in many plays and musicals, including “Spring Awakening,” “Hansel and Gretel” and in the world premiere of Lucas Baisch’s “The Scavengers” in 2014. In all he did at DePaul, Keery endeavored to make it his own. 

Students at DePaul will have the chance to make their mark on this year’s commencement ceremonies. Every graduate will be featured on a digital slide, which they can personalize with a photo and message. Each school or college will have its own dedicated ceremony, featuring Esteban, a student speaker and the dean from each college or school, as well as other inspirational messages from the DePaul community. For additional information about DePaul’s commencement, visit