Acclaimed actor, activist, and humanitarian Viola Davis, Juilliard ‘93, will deliver the keynote address at Barnard’s 127th Commencement in May, administrators announced in an email to the Barnard community on Monday. Davis will also receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the college’s highest honor, at the ceremony.
Davis is the first black actor to have won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award in acting, named the Triple Crown of Acting. She has starred in films such as “Fences,” “Suicide Squad,” “The Help,” and “Widows,” and was also the first black actor to win an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, which she received for her work in the television show “How to Get Away with Murder.” Additionally, she is known for activist work, including collaborating with the Hunger Is campaign to help eradicate childhood hunger across America.
In the email, Barnard President Sian Beilock, along with co-interim Deans of the College Alicia Lawrence and Natalie Friedman described the impact of Davis’ career.
“In both her work and her life, she has been a fearless voice for women, women of color, and all who deserve to be seen and heard,” they wrote.
Other medalists at Barnard’s Commencement this year include pioneering civil rights attorney and fair housing advocate Shirley Adelson Siegel, BC ’37; Vice President for Content and Character Development at Marvel Comics and creator of the first Muslim superhero Sana Amanat, BC ’04; and internationally recognized poet, playwright, essayist, and memoirist Cherríe Moraga.
Each will be awarded a Barnard Medal of Distinction, the college’s highest honor.
Commencement will take place on Monday, May 20 at 4 p.m., at Radio City Music Hall.
Read the full email below.
Dear Barnard Seniors and Barnard Community,
It is our pleasure to announce the distinguished speaker and medalists for Commencement 2019. We are honored that acclaimed actor, producer, and humanitarian Viola Davis will deliver the keynote address and receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction. Ms. Davis is the first black actor to have won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. Throughout her extraordinary career, she has portrayed complex characters with honesty and heart, and, in both her work and her life, she has been a fearless voice for women, women of color, and all who deserve to be seen and heard.
Joining our speaker and medalist, Viola Davis, will be three other medalists who also embody Barnard’s commitment to academic excellence and to making a difference in the world. The medalists are: Shirley Adelson Siegel ’37, pioneering civil rights attorney and fair housing advocate; Sana Amanat ’04, vice president for content and character development at Marvel Comics and creator of the first Muslim superhero; and Cherríe Moraga, internationally recognized poet, playwright, essayist and memoirist.
Thanks are due to the Medalist Committee for their help in selecting our honorees, as well as to those who participated in the Commencement speaker conversations.
Barnard's 127th Commencement will take place on Monday, May 20, 2019, at 4:00 p.m., at Radio City Music Hall. Before the ceremony, the Class of 2019 will gather on campus for a celebratory reception with friends, family, and faculty. Bus transportation to Radio City Music Hall will be provided for all graduates, departing from Barnard at 2:15 p.m.
The University Commencement will take place on the morning of Wednesday, May 22. More information and updates about both Commencement ceremonies will be posted over the next several weeks at www.barnard.edu/commencement.
We very much look forward to celebrating the spectacular achievements of the Barnard Class of 2019 on Monday, May 20.
Sian Leah Beilock
Alicia Lawrence and Natalie Friedman
Co-Interim Deans of the College