Ron Cephas Jones Cancels Commencement Speech At NJ Grad Ceremony, ‘This Is Us’ Star Hints At Health Problems

Ron Cephas Jones canceled a scheduled appearance at a college graduation ceremony in New Jersey, citing “unforeseen” complications. The This Is Us star was set to deliver a commencement speech to 1,600 graduates at his alma mater, Ramapo College, at a ceremony in Newark, New Jersey but the actor sent a video message to the school instead, according to

A spokesperson at the college said Jones’ complications were related to “travel security” and “health issues,” but she did not give further details.

While Ron Cephas Jones was unable to travel from California to New Jersey to be the commencement keynote speaker, the 60-year-old actor sent an audio message and slideshow to be played at the ceremony. In his message, Ron apologized for the “series of unfortunate events with airline security and my health” that kept him from getting to the East Coast graduation.


In a line that sounded like it came straight from This Is Us writers’ scripts, Jones explained to the grads:

“I guess what I want to say to all of you is that a lot of times that’s what life does. It throws you a curveball.”

Ron Cephas Jones graduated from Ramapo College in 1978 and he credited the school for setting off a creative “spark” inside of him. Jones is a veteran character actor, but his role as William Hill in the hit NBC drama This Is Us has made him a household name this year. Jones was introduced in the show’s pilot episode when his character was reunited with the biological son (Sterling K. Brown) he left outside of a fire station when he was a baby.

“I hope that all of you have found your spark,” Jones told the grads in his recorded message. “The thing in your heart that drives you. The thing that you love to do and hopefully someday you get paid to do it. That’s the goal of our lives.”


Jones’ no-show status comes just days after he told the Los Angeles Times that he welcomes all of the hugs he gets from the fans that he meets.

“I’ll take them,” Ron told the Times.

“I can use all the hugs I can get.”

Jones also talked about his character William’s emotional death scene. This Is Us fans were prepared for Ron’s character to die—he was introduced as having stage four stomach cancer—but the gut-wrenching scene was too much for Jones’ own daughter, Hamilton star Jasmine Cephas Jones, to watch.

“It’s difficult to watch,” Ron admitted.

“I think for her, it’s just a little difficult for her, right now, to watch me in that scenario.”


Ron went on to say he has a very close relationship with his daughter and that he respected her decision to skip the This Is Us episode, “Memphis,” in which his character dies. Jones said even he carried the weight of William’s death with him long before he read the “Memphis” script.

“I would come in each week, read the script thinking, ‘Is this the episode that he’s going to die?‘” Ron explained. I kind of carried that, and that was difficult — emotionally difficult to feel that and know that people feel that feeling every day…It was a difficult process.”

While Ron Cephas Jones’ character died in the first season of This Is Us, he will be shown in future seasons via flashbacks. This Is Us has been renewed for Seasons 2 and 3 and it will return to NBC in September.

Take a look at the video below to see Ron Cephas Jones heartbreaking death scene on This Is Us.

[Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]