Robert Redford announced as 2015 commencement speaker

Vice President and Secretary of the College C. Andrew McGadney announced in a press release on Tuesday, March 17 that actor and filmmaker Robert Redford will deliver the Class of 2015’s commencement address. The 194th Commencement ceremony is set to take place on Miller Lawn on Sunday, May 24.

Redford, 78, is most notable for his film career. After leaving the University of Colorado in his second year, Redford spent time traveling across both the United States and Europe before landing in New York. Like many actors of his time, he found mediums for his talent both on stage and in film. Redford made his stage debut in Tall Story (1959) and eventually gained notoriety with his role in Barefoot in the Park (1963). Several years later, in 1969, Redford performed his breakthrough film role as The Sundance Kid in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the age of 32. Two films released in 1973, The Way We Were and The Sting, made Redford the “number one box-office star for the next three years,” according to IMDb.

His success inspired Redford to help others, through advocating for environmental causes and creating the Sundance Institute in 1981. The Institute, according to its website, is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences.” The organization also hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival, which in its first year hosted only ten artists and has now evolved into one of the most prominent events in the independent film industry.

The long list of roles and positions Redford has held have not gone without notice. He has received two Academy Awards, one for Best Director in 1981, for his directorial debut Ordinary People, and another in 2002 for Lifetime Achievement. Other remarkable awards include the National Audubon Society’s Audubon Medal in 1989, the National Medal of Arts in 1996 and the Kennedy Center Honors for his contributions to American culture in 2005.

In the College’s press release, President David A. Greene also acknowledged Redford’s illustrious accomplishments: “throughout his distinguished career he has demonstrated a commitment to the open expression of ideas and the power of artful storytelling. We look forward to welcoming him to Colby and to hearing the insights he will provide to our graduating class.”

Redford will be accompanied by several other successful people in receiving honorary degrees at the ceremony. They include Deborah Bial, founder and president of the Posse Foundation; Andrew Davis ’85, an arts, education and environmental philanthropist; Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner; Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO of TIAA-CREF; and Jose Antonio Vargas, a filmmaker, journalist and founder of Define America.

Greene explained that “these remarkable individuals were chosen for their extraordinary contributions to society in so many important ways…and we look forward to honoring them at Colby.”

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