Octavia Spencer to speak at spring commencement


Octavia Spencer

Erin Zaranec

Actress and author Octavia Spencer will address Kent State’s Spring 2017 graduating class during the university’s main commencement ceremony on May 13.

Known for her iconic roles in movies like “Hidden Figures” and “The Help,” Spencer created her legacy in Hollywood, becoming a champion for women and minorities.

Spencer recently made headlines with her Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Dorothy Vaughan in “Hidden Figures.”

In 2011, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Minny Jackson in “The Help.”

Spencer will serve as the commencement speaker for the 10 a.m. university-wide ceremony at Dix Stadium.

In October 2016, the university announced plans to hold an outdoor ceremony open to students from the entire Kent State campus system, the first of its kind for Kent State.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Todd Diacon said the university-wide ceremony would allow for resources to be focused on one main ceremony, with smaller ceremonies being hosted across campus in the afternoon.

The goal, he said, is to give students “a very impressive, impactful commencement as a whole with a very important and famous speaker and then … go to their college ceremony and their name will be called, and they’ll go across the stage … it will be a much more intimate and meaningful experience as well.”

The critically acclaimed actress with a career two-decades in the making matched caliber of the speaker the university was looking for.

“Commencement is among the most important events in the lives of our students and families,” said Kent State President Beverly Warren in a university news release published Tuesday. “We are delighted that this inaugural One University Commencement will feature the compelling story of Octavia Spencer, whose meaningful voice and inspiring example are sure to be a highlight of this momentous ceremony.”

According to The New York Times, Spencer was born in Montgomery, Alabama, as the sixth of seven children in her family. She received a Bachelor of Science in liberal arts degree from Auburn University, where she minored in theatre.

Spencer’s appearance in “A Time to Kill” in 1995 was the actress’s first on-screen role. She has since held various on-screen roles in film and television and has written two young adult novels.

Individual college commencement ceremonies will also each have keynote speakers, including Kent State alumni and former Kent State employees.

Erin Zaranec is the social media director for KentWired, contact her at [email protected].