WESTWOOD—Stan Lee, comic-book writer, publisher, and co-creator of tons of Marvel characters, was the keynote speaker at the UCLA Extension certificate graduation ceremony on Friday, June 30, at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.

During his speech, Lee encouraged graduates to follow their interests and work to the best of their efforts in their chosen fields. He regaled the audience with an account of how he spotted a fly crawling on the wall and was inspired to create a superhero that could stick to walls. In spite of his publisher’s criticism, Lee introduced Spider-Man in the final issue of a comic that was slated for cancellation, and the character proved to be a success. Lee noted that people do their best work if they’re doing what they want to do, without letting others’ opinions influence their decisions.

Wayne Smutz, Dean of Continuing Education and UCLA Extension, presented Lee with the new Icons of L.A. Award, which honors individuals in Los Angeles whose accomplishments support the program’s belief that lifelong learning is essential to growth and societal impact. He upheld Lee as someone who continued to learn and grow throughout his life, since he began writing for Timely Comics, Marvel Comics’ predecessor, at 17 years old.

“Stan is considered the godfather of the modern-day superhero,” Smutz said, according to reports. “He has exerted more influence over the comic book and entertainment industry than any other figure and is revered by fans of all ages, worldwide and of all cultures.”

Lee, 94, co-created many of Marvel’s most well-known characters, such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, X-Men, and hundreds more, introducing a detailed, shared universe into his comic books. Lee’s work allowed Marvel Comics to grow from a division of a publishing house into an established multimedia corporation. Lee was inducted into the Comic Industry’s Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1994 and received a National Medal of Arts in 2008. He is known to have regular cameo appearances in Marvel films and television projects.

Christine Simmons, president of UCLA Alumni Association’s board of directors and president and chief operating officer of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, also spoke at the ceremony. Nurit Katz, executive officer and chief sustainability officer for UCLA, was another notable speaker.

UCLA Extension celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017 as one of the largest and most comprehensive continuing education programs in the United States, for adults who are changing careers or pursuing new interests. Graduates earn certificates in fields such as real estate, feature film writing, finance, and more. Currently, UCLA Extension offers more than 5,000 classes and programs per year. Approximately 2,000 students received their certificates in more than 180 certificate programs during Friday’s graduation ceremony.