Skip To Content
Oprah Winfrey

2012 Commencement Address

Oprah Winfrey

Press Release


HIV/AIDS advocate Dazon Dixon Diallo,C’86, and actress and social change agent Anna Deavere Smith to receive honorary degrees

ATLANTA (April 19, 2012)
– On Sunday, May 20, at 3 p.m., global media leader and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey will inspire approximately 550 graduates when she delivers the commencement address to the class of 2012. Winfrey, who received an honorary degree from Spelman College in 1993, will also receive the institution’s National Community Service Award. Honorary degrees will also be given to Dazon Dixon Diallo, C’86, founder and president of SisterLove Inc., and actress, playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith.

Known for her focus on improving the lives of others through various charitable initiatives, education is at the heart of Ms. Winfrey’s philanthropic efforts. Through her Angel Network, she has helped establish 60 schools in 13 countries and donated $1 million to six charter schools in the United States in 2010. Her Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program has provided millions of dollars in support to financially challenged students and her 2002 Christmas Kindness initiative in South Africa helped more than 50,000 children experience a million moments of happiness. However, among her best known endeavors is the establishment of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, where she has invested more than $40 million to educate students in grades seven through 12.

Spelman College has a special relationship with the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Three students from the academy have been accepted as first-year students at the college, as part of the class of 2016. In addition, Spelmanites have participated in internships at the academy, tutoring students and serving as resident assistants.

“We are thrilled to welcome Oprah Winfrey back to our campus to receive this well-deserved award. I know her address to the class of 2012 will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the graduates, as it did in 1993,” said Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., Spelman president.

Honorary degrees will be bestowed upon public health advocate Dazon Dixon Diallo, C’86, founder and president of SisterLove Inc., one of the first HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations in the Southeast founded by a woman and devoted to women, and  highly acclaimed actress, playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith.

“As the global leader in the education of women of African descent, our mission is to provide an experience rooted in academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences, and to inspire a life-changing commitment to community involvement and positive social impact,” added Dr. Tatum. “All of our honorees are tangible examples of the roles women can play in changing the world.”

Dr. Ronald E. Peters, eighth president of the Interdenominational Theological Center, will serve as baccalaureate speaker to the class of 2012. Dr. Peters, a New Orleans native, is an internationally recognized preacher, author and adviser on social witness policy and urban theological education. Baccalaureate service will be held on Saturday, May 19 at 9 a.m., on the Spelman College Oval.