Helen Mirren named 2017 Commencement speaker


Photo courtesy of Michael Strecker

Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren will be the keynote speaker at the 2017 Commencement ceremony.

“Commencement 2017 promises to be one of the best ever,” President Michael Fitts said in a Special View from Gibson. “We have had presidents, authors, comedians and even the Dalai Lama as commencement speakers, but never the Queen.”

Not only will this year’s commencement speaker be delivering the traditional keynote address, Academy Award-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren will also be receiving an honorary degree from Tulane. 

Mirren’s breakout film came in 1980 with “The Long Good Friday,”and she has secured a versatile collection of roles since. She played real-life heroine Maria Altman in “Woman in Gold” and voiced Dean Hardscrabble in “Monsters University.”

For her lengthy tenure as a talented and multifaceted actress, Mirren has secured the Triple Crown of Acting, a term used to describe a small group of only 23 performers who have received an Academy Award, an Emmy Award and a Tony Award. 

Mirren’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II earned her several major awards. For her portrayal as depicted in “The Queen,” Mirren won an Oscar in 2005. In the London and New York stage productions of  “The Audience,” Mirren again impressed critics and received England’s highest honor in the world of theater, the Olivier, and a Tony award.  

“We are thrilled to have one the most acclaimed and beloved actresses of all-time share her wisdom and wit with our graduates,” Fitts said. 

Since beginning her acting career in London in 1965, Mirren has starred in nearly 40 plays, 57 films and 28 television shows.

Aside from her accomplishments as an actress, Mirren was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for Services to the Performing Arts in 2003. She is also an active advocate of many service projects, addressing issues such as undeserved youth, child poverty, domestic violence and education and health initiatives in other countries.

“I am very proud and happy to be receiving a doctorate from Tulane, and look forward to giving the commencement speech,” Mirren said. “I have had a long and very passionate affair with New Orleans, and this will make my relationship official.”

The ceremony will also feature live jazz, herald trumpets, confetti cannons and a traditional New Orleans second-line procession, among other aspects for which Tulane commencements have become widely known and celebrated.

Tulane University’s 2017 Commencement will begin at 9 a.m. on May 20 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

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