Harvard to Honor Actor John Lithgow with Arts Medal

Actor John A Lithgow '67 delivers a Harvard commencement speech in 2005.
John A. Lithgow ’67, an Adams House alumnus and renowned American actor, will be the 24th recipient of the annual Harvard Arts Medal in April.

Most recently known for his role in the Netflix series “The Crown,” Lithgow will receive the medal at the 25th annual “ARTS FIRST” festival—which he helped establish—on April 27. Established in 1995, the Harvard Arts Medal is awarded annually to a graduate of Harvard or Radcliffe to recognize excellence in the arts.

Lithgow will add the Harvard Arts Medal to a lengthy list of accolades he has received over the course of his career. The actor has received two Tony awards, five Emmy awards, two Golden Globes, and three Screen Actors Guild awards.

“John Lithgow is an extraordinary actor who has enriched and entertained the world with unforgettable stage and screen performances,” Drew Faust said to the Harvard Gazette. “We owe the launch of Arts First—this year celebrating its 25th anniversary—to his unfailing efforts and his lifelong belief in the abundance and power of our creative community.”

After graduating magna cum laude as a History and Literature concentrator, Lithgow went on to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art as a Fulbright Scholar. He has also served on the Harvard Board of Overseers, the University's second-highest governing board.


Lithgow spoke at Harvard's commencement exercises in 2005, and was the first-ever professional actor to deliver a Harvard commencement address. Last spring, Lithgow narrated an “Ode to the Library: Widener turns 100,” a video celebrating the 100th birthday of Widener Library in June 2015.

Past recipients of the Arts Medal include actor Matt Damon ’92, cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76, and writers John H. Updike ’54 and Margaret E. Atwood.

—Staff writer Valia P. Leifer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ValiaLeifer.