“Pursuit of Happyness” Hero to Speak at Cal Graduation

The UC Berkeley graduating class of 2009 will get some valuable advice from the man behind a true rags-to-riches tale that came to life on the big screen as "The Pursuit of Happyness."

Chris Gardner, the self-made entrepreneur and philanthropist whose story inspired the 2006 autobiography and feature film will deliver the keynote address at the University of California, Berkeley's graduation May 22.

"I am honored that the graduating class of UC Berkeley has asked me to be their commencement speaker," Gardner told the university. "Returning to my roots in the Bay Area, where I struggled but ultimately learned to lay the groundwork for my future and succeed, is a thrill. And, hey, I can take BART to the convocation."

Will Smith's portrayal of Gardner in the film earned him nominations for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe. The movie won numerous other accolades, including an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture.

Gardner and his son lived on the streets of San Francisco after he lost his family's savings in a medical equipment company. He became an intern for Dean Witter, climbed the corporate ladder and eventually founded the brokerage firm Gardner Rich in Chicago in 1987.

While he usually charges to speak at events, Gardner waived the fee for UC.

The event open only to graduates and invited guests.

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