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Seth Meyers to address Northwestern Class of 2016

Emmy Award-winning comedian and ‘Late Night’ host to receive honorary degrees with four others

Northwestern University alumnus Seth Meyers, the host of NBC’s “Late Night” talk show and one of the nation’s best-known comedians, is among the five distinguished individuals who will be recognized with honorary degrees at the University’s 158th commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 17.

Meyers will deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2016.

The Northwestern School of Communication alumnus (’96) was the head writer for “Saturday Night Live” and anchor of the show’s wildly popular “Weekend Update” before becoming the host of “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in 2014. The recipient of an Emmy Award and several Writers Guild Awards, he also is a writer and executive producer of “Late Night.” He was nominated for an Emmy 14 times and is one of the 2014 TIME 100, Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Meyers began his improvisation comedy career as a member of the Mee-Ow troupe at Northwestern. 

Besides Meyers, the others who will receive honorary degrees are Robert Alter, a University of California, Berkeley scholar who has revolutionized the field of Biblical studies; Richard Lifton, a Yale School of Medicine professor who pioneered the identification of gene mutations causing extreme forms of common disease; Sara S. McLanahan, a Princeton University professor whose scholarship focuses on fragile families and child well-being; and Ruth J. Simmons, a former president of Brown University who has provided path-breaking leadership and scholarship in higher education.


Robert Alter

Through his scholarly interpretations and translations, Robert Alter has revolutionized the field of Biblical studies. A graduate of Columbia University with M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University, Alter has taught since 1962 at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is professor of Hebrew and the Class of 1937 Professor of Comparative Literature. His 25 books include the groundbreaking studies that established the literary approach to the Hebrew Bible: “The Art of Biblical Narrative,” “The Art of Biblical Poetry” and (as coeditor) “The Literary Guide to the Bible.” Alter’s translations of the Hebrew Bible have received widespread acclaim, and “The Five Books of Moses” won the PEN/USA Translation Award. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, he is the recipient of four honorary degrees and the American Council of Learned Societies’ 2012 Charles Homer Haskins Prize.

Richard P. Lifton

Richard P. Lifton pioneered the identification of gene mutations causing extreme forms of common disease, demonstrating that increased salt reabsorption by the kidney causes hypertension, a disease affecting one billion people. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Lifton earned his M.D. and Ph.D. at Stanford University. Since 1994 he has been an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a faculty member at the Yale School of Medicine, where he is chair of genetics and Sterling Professor of Genetics and Internal Medicine. Lifton is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His honors include the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences and awards from the American Society of Nephrology, the American Society of Hypertension, the American Heart Association, the International Society of Hypertension and the International Society of Nephrology.

Sara S. McLanahan

Sara McLanahan is the William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where she directs the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. Editor-in-chief of the Future of Children journal, she is also the principal investigator on the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Her books include “Growing Up with a Single Parent,” “Fathers under Fire, Social Policies for Children and Single Mothers and Their Children: A New American Dilemma.” A past president of the Population Association of America, she is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Her many other honors include the American Sociological Association Family Section’s Distinguished Scholar Award and Harvard University’s Thomas C. Schelling Award. McLanahan earned her Ph.D. at the University of Texas.

Seth Meyers

Seth Meyers is a comedian, writer, television host, actor and producer. Since February 2014, he has hosted NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Meyers began his improvisation comedy career as a member of the Mee-Ow troupe at Northwestern University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in radio/television/film at the School of Communication. He then performed with Chicago’s ImprovOlympic and Amsterdam’s Boom Chicago before joining the cast of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) in 2001. Meyers became SNL’s co-head writer in 2006 and its sole head writer beginning with the 2008–09 season. He also anchored its “Weekend Update” segment from 2006 until leaving SNL in 2014. He is the recipient of an Emmy Award and several Writers Guild Awards and a 14-time Emmy nominee. Meyers has appeared in feature films, hosted the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards, gave the keynote speech for the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and is the co-creator and executive producer of the current IFC series “Documentary Now!”

Ruth Simmons

Ruth J. Simmons served from 2001 to 2012 as the18th president of Brown University. Previously she was associate dean of the graduate school at the University of Southern California, provost at Spelman College, vice provost at Princeton University and president of Smith College. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Simmons is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Her numerous honors include Harvard University’s Centennial Medal, Columbia University’s Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service, the United Negro College Fund’s President’s Award, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s “Drum Major for Justice” Award, the Jackie Robinson Foundation’s ROBIE Humanitarian Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal and 27 honorary degrees. In 2001 Time magazine named her America’s best college president; in 2012 she was named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. Simmons received her Ph.D. in romance languages and literatures from Harvard University.