In recent years, commencement speakers have included journalist Fareed Zakaria, cultural theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah, and humorist Mo Rocca. It’s been a few years since the last speaker, Vera Wang (‘71), was a Sarah Lawrence alum. This year, it has been announced that J.J. Abrams (‘88) will be the commencement speaker.
Writer, director, and producer J.J. Abrams has been consistently working on films and t.v. shows such as Super 8, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Alias, Lost, Fringe, and Westworld. He is a recipient of several awards such as two Emmys, a Producers Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award in Television, and awards from the Directors Guild of America to name a few.
Senior class president, Sadie Rose Zavgren (‘17) shared that many seniors were interested having him as a potential speaker even before he was chosen. As one of the school’s most notable alums, “There was positive feedback. People seemed super excited. They posted screenshots of the email the school sent out and posted it on social media because they were so excited”.
It’s no secret that J.J. Abrams has been asked on several occasions to give a keynote address. President Karen Lawrence said that “At the urging of students over the years, I have invited him to deliver the commencement address, but this has been an extraordinarily fertile and busy period of J.J.’s career, and he graciously declined due to his hectic schedule”. This can be why many were surprised to hear he is this year’s speaker.
Lawrence, like many students on campus is happy to have him as a speaker. Regarding why he has finally decided to speak after several offers, she said, “In public interviews and to friends, J.J. has said he feels Sarah Lawrence was exactly the right school for him. I think he believes in magic—maybe it’s just the right time and the class of 2017 is just the right class to hear what he has to say.”
Donna Karimi (‘17)