BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Best-selling author and Illinois Wesleyan University alumna Torri “T.J.” Newman '06 will deliver the University’s Commencement address on Sunday, May 5.

Weather permitting, the graduation ceremony for the class of 2024 will take place at Kemp Commencement Plaza on the Eckley Quad near State Farm Hall. Commencement will begin at 1 p.m. and will last about two hours. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved indoors to the Activity Center at the Shirk Center, and that decision will be made on Friday, May 3. The ceremony will also be live streamed at More information is available at  

Torri Newman
Author Torri “T.J.” Newman '06 will deliver the University’s Commencement address on Sunday, May 5.

Newman’s commencement address to Titans is titled, “It’s Okay to Fail.”

“It's an incredible honor to give the commencement speech to the 2024 graduating class of Illinois Wesleyan University. I wasn't an overnight success story, but the incredible success that I ultimately did achieve had its roots in so many things I learned when I was a student at IWU,” said Newman.

Newman, of Phoenix, Arizona, studied theatre arts at IWU before working as a bookseller and flight attendant. She wrote her first novel Falling while working on red-eye flights while passengers slept. Falling debuted at number two on the New York Times bestseller list in 2021. Her second novel, Drowning, was released in 2023 and also became an instant New York Times bestseller.

Both thrillers were named best books of the year by USA Today, Esquire and Amazon among many others, and have been published in 35 countries. Each will soon be major motion picture films after being sold in seven-figure deals — Falling with Universal Pictures and Drowning with Warner Brothers.