Back To School: Shonda Rhimes Will Deliver Dartmouth Commencement Speech

April 24, 2014  |  

It’s time for the star-studded commencement speakers lists to start popping up: Diddy (Howard), PBS’ Gwen Ifill (St. Mary’s), Wynton Marsalis (Tulane), Forest Whitaker (Miami U), Condoleeza Rice (Rutgers), and John Legend (UPenn).

Add TV’s gift to Sandal-loving viewers Shonda Rhimes to the list.

She will deliver the commencement speech at her alma mater, Dartmouth. A graduate of the class of  ’91, the producer/creator of Scandal says she’s finally ready to step in front of new graduates at her old school and pass on some words of wisdom.

“When College President Phil Hanlon flew to Los Angeles to meet with her and then called a week later to ask her to address the Class of 2014, she said, time and perspective gave her the confidence to accept,” reports

“The difference between a couple of years ago and now,” said Rhimes, “is that I have perspective on where I’ve been and what I am doing.”

The Golden Globe winner and three-time Emmy nominee will be just the 11th woman to address a Dartmouth graduating class since the start of the 20th century.

Unless you don’t own a TV, you probably already know that Rhimes is the creator, head writer and executive producer of the television shows Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. Her production company, Shondaland, employs around 550 actors, writers, crew members and producers. She was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine and has served as a trustee for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2013. She’s also appeared on Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business,” Variety’s “Power of Women” and Glamour’s “Women of the Year” lists.

Rhimes majored  in English and film studies and directed the Black Underground Theater Association while at Dartmouth.

When Hanlon extended the offer, Rhimes said she was shocked.

“I was speechless because I often feel the same way I did when I was 20 years old -— that I can’t possibly be the grown up in the room,” she said. “But apparently I am.”

Student body president Adrian Ferrari ’14 said Rhimes was a good choice because her expertise is different from the past two speakers, who both worked in education.

“People are excited for someone who is going to be lighthearted, satirical and funny,” Ferrari said.

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