Global media leader Oprah Winfrey to deliver Smith College Commencement address


Sunnie Ning ‘18 News Editor

Oprah Winfrey, the widely respected global media leader, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist, will deliver the 2017 Commencement Address at Smith College’s graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 21. Winfrey will also receive an honorary degree.

Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host and actress. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest-rated television program for 25 years. She also is an Academy Award-nominated actress for her role in “The Color Purple,” earned critical acclaim in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” and produced and acted in the Academy Award-winning film “Selma.” Winfrey recently appeared in the HBO Films “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” and will portray Mrs. Which in Disney’s film adaptation of “Wrinkle in Time,” releasing in April 2018. As chairman and CEO, she guides her successful cable network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network; runs O, The Oprah Magazine; and oversees Harpo Films. This January, Winfrey released her first cookbook, Food, Health and Happiness: 115 On Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life.

Winfrey was called “one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th Century” and “one of the most influential people” from 2004 to 2011 by TIME. In 2004, Winfrey became the first black person to rank among the 50 most generous Americans. In 2013, Winfrey donated $12 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She has received numerous awards, including the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. In 2013, Winfrey was awarded the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Winfrey is also the founder of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, a school she opened a decade ago to support young women whose families cannot fund their educations. The boarding school enrolls students tuition-free every year. Graduates of the school have continued on to higher education both in South Africa and at colleges and universities around the world. This October, The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa will celebrate its seventh graduating class and the school’s 10th anniversary.

One of the graduates from The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Morgan Mpungose ’17, will graduate from Smith this year. Last year, Oprah Winfrey attended the commencement ceremony at Mount Holyoke College, where another alumna of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls graduated.

“Oprah Winfrey is a global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress,” Smith said in a statement. “She has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired people today.”

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney announced Winfrey as this year’s commencement speaker on February 23, Smith’s annual Rally Day. The student body erupted in loud cheers and screams. For weeks, social media platforms were overrun by expressions of excitement and appraise.

Members of the public who wish to view the ceremony are directed to do so via simulcast at John M. Greene Hall. Additionally, students, parents, alumnae and friends around the world are invited to view the event via live webcast. The webcast will begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 21. This year’s ceremony will be translated live, in Spanish and Mandarin.