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Commencement Speaker

Jeff Kinney '93 Author, illustrator and creator of Diary of a Wimpy KidJeff Kinney '93

Author, illustrator and creator of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

A cartoonist and best-selling children’s author, Jeff Kinney ’93 is the creator of the worldwide Diary of a Wimpy Kid phenomenon that has sold hundreds of millions of books and been adapted for both film and television.

Born and raised in Maryland by a family of UMD graduates, he is a proud Terp who originally dreamed of becoming a newspaper cartoonist. Kinney studied computer science before earning a degree in criminology and criminal justice. He gained notoriety at UMD for his “Igdoof” strip in The Diamondback that satirized College Park life through the adventures of its titular awkward character.

He worked software and web design jobs while trying to get a syndication deal and collecting ideas for a book about a middle-school weakling named Greg Heffley. Kinney started publishing daily installments on Funbrain.com in 2004—garnering up to 70,000 readers a day—and two years later signed a multi-book deal with publisher Harry N. Abrams Inc. to turn Diary of a Wimpy Kid into a book series.

The first book, packed with Kinney’s distinctive stick-figure doodles, was an instant bestseller in 2007, and exponential success followed for each entry in the series. A permanent fixture on The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, Kinney has sold more than 250 million copies around the world in 79 editions in 65 languages. Kinney has also served as producer on several films and most recently worked on a new, animated adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, book 1, which will premiere on Disney+ on Dec. 3.

Kinney is also the creator of Poptropica, an online site where millions of kids have explored and played games to learn history and develop problem-solving techniques. It has been named one of Time magazine’s 50 best websites.

Kinney, who Time has also listed among the most influential people in the world, has won numerous national and international awards, including two Children’s Choice Book Awards and six Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite Book.

He and his wife have two sons and own an independent bookstore and cafe in Massachusetts named An Unlikely Story.  

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