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In a break from politicians and economists, this year’s graduates will hear from a Commencement speaker who is proud to be known as a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel.
John A. Lithgow ’67, an award-winning actor, promoter of the arts at Harvard, and current star of Broadway’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels , will address the Class of 2005 at Afternoon Exercises on June 9.
Lithgow will be the first professional artist to speak at Afternoon Exercises in 27 years, the most recent being Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1978. No one with a background in professional theater has given the address since playwright Thornton Wilder spoke at the 1951 Commencement.
“Harvard’s Commencement platform is a very different kind of stage for me, but one I am very excited and honored to have the privilege to speak from,” Lithgow said in a statement.
He could not be reached for comment this weekend.
Lithgow is best known for his role as extraterrestrial-in-disguise Dr. Dick Solomon on NBC’s late-1990s sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun,” But the 59-year-old actor has also performed in over 30 major motion pictures, received four Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe, appeared in countless stage productions, and won two Tony Awards.
He has left a mark on the arts scene at Harvard as well. As a member of the Board of Overseers, one of the University’s two governing bodies, Lithgow conceived of and pushed to establish Harvard’s annual Arts First weekend in 1993, and returns to Harvard each year for the event.
Lithgow is an advocate of childhood literacy, performs in youth concerts and ballets, and is currently writing a series of children’s books.
Students yesterday were mixed in their reaction to the choice of Lithgow as Commencement speaker.
“It makes me a bit more nervous than if someone like Kofi Annan were going to speak, but I can’t really make any opinion until I know what he’s going to speak about,” former Undergraduate Council President Matthew W. Mahan ‘05 said. “He could give a very inspirational speech, though.”
Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, spoke last year, and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo addressed graduates in 2003.
Artists and advocates of the arts at Harvard have been particularly enthusiastic about Lithgow’s selection. Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club President
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