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Commencement Archive

Acclaimed Novelist Toni Morrison Delivers Smith Commencement Address

Toni Morrison LTD ’91; May 20, 2001

Toni Morrison

Acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison was the speaker at Smith College's 123rd commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20, 2001.

Morrison, who is the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University, is the author of seven major novels — The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz and Paradise — which have received extensive critical acclaim.

She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 as well as the National Book Critics Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Humanities Medal and the Library of Congress Bicentennial Living Legend Award.

She has also written numerous essays and lyrics for works sung by Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman and has coauthored a children's book, The Big Box.

Morrison, who received an honorary degree from Smith in 1991, has degrees from Howard and Cornell universities and has taught at Yale and Rutgers universities, Bard College and the State University of New York at Albany. She was a senior editor at Random House for 20 years.

Five distinguished individuals received an honorary degree from Smith during the ceremony: Wendy Kopp, founder and president, Teach for America; Dr. Vera Cooper Rubin, senior astronomer, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington; Dr. Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Dr. Cornel West, Alphonse Fletcher, Jr., University Professor, Professor of Afro-American Studies and Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Harvard University; and Dr. Diana S. Natalicio, president of the University of Texas at El Paso.