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Kathryn Hahn to address Northwestern’s Class of 2024

The University to hold 166th commencement ceremony on June 9

Actress Kathryn Hahn will deliver this year’s commencement address to Northwestern University’s Class of 2024.

Starring on stage and screen for nearly three decades since her own graduation from Northwestern in 1995, Hahn has evoked tears, laughter and every emotional response in between, taking on multifarious roles.

Hahn also will receive an honorary degree along with three other highly accomplished Northwestern alumni: former professional tennis player Katrina Adams, journalist and professor David Barstow and physicist David Reitze. 

Northwestern’s 166th commencement ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 9, at the United Center in Chicago. The ceremony will be livestreamed on Northwestern’s Graduation Weekend 2024 website

Media interested in attending must RSVP with Erin Karter at by noon on Friday, June 7. A ticket will be required to gain entry to the facility. Media who do not RSVP by noon on June 7 will not be allowed to enter. Ticketed media must check in no later that 10 a.m. Media check-in is available starting at 9 a.m.

“We are delighted that Kathryn Hahn, one of Hollywood’s most compelling and sought-after artists, will deliver this year’s commencement address,” President Michael Schill said. “Kathryn’s performances in some of our most beloved movies and TV shows are as memorable as they are remarkable. Together, this year’s honorary degree recipients — Katrina Adams, David Barstow, Kathryn Hahn and David Reitze — demonstrate the consistent ability of Northwestern alumni to make a positive impact on our society across disciplines.”

Currently, Hahn can be seen in Hulu’s limited series “Tiny Beautiful Things,” based on the best-selling essay collection of the same name by Cheryl Strayed, as “Dear Sugar,” an anonymous advice columnist who is revered even when her own life is falling apart. For her performance, Hahn was nominated for a 2024 Screen Actors Guild Award in the category of “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series” and was nominated for a 2023 Primetime Emmy Award.

Upcoming, Hahn will be seen in the Marvel/Disney+ limited series “Agatha: Darkhold Diaries,” reviving her character Agatha Harkness in the “WandaVision” spinoff show as the title character.

Recently, Hahn was seen in Netflix’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” as a part of the star-studded cast featuring Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Dave Bautista and Madelyn Cline. The film received a 2023 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy as well as 2023 Critics Choice Awards for Best Acting Ensemble and Best Comedy.

Prior to this, Hahn co-starred in the Marvel/Disney+ limited series “WandaVision” portraying Agatha Harkness. For her performance, she received a 2021 Emmy Award nomination. Before that, she starred in the Apple TV+ series "The Shrink Next Door" alongside Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell.

Hahn starred opposite Kevin Bacon in the Amazon Prime Video comedy series “I Love Dick,” created by writer-director Joey Soloway, a collaborator who also created “Transparent” and “Afternoon Delight.” The latter premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and garnered Hahn a “Breakthrough Actor” Gotham Award nomination.

In the film “Private Life” by Tamara Jenkins, Hahn and Paul Giamatti portray a couple struggling with issues of infertility. In A.O. Scott’s review of “Private Life” for The New York Times, he called Hahn “a vivid performer and also an exquisitely subtle one.” Film Comment magazine’s Sheila O’Malley wrote, “Hahn is one of the best actresses working today. … This is a role worthy of her tremendous gifts.”

Hahn also starred as Carla Dunkler in the hit comedy franchise “Bad Moms” and its sequel; and as the villainous voice of Doc Ock in the Academy Award-winning animated film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

She starred in her own critically acclaimed HBO dramedy, “Mrs. Fletcher” as well as the acclaimed HBO limited series “I Know This Much Is True” opposite Mark Ruffalo.

She was the voice of Paige Hunter in the Apple TV+ animated musical comedy series “Central Park” and was featured in a recurring guest role in such shows as the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation” and “Girls.”

Other notable film credits include M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit,” “This Is Where I Leave You,” opposite Jason Bateman,  the hit comedy “We’re the Millers,” opposite Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, “Wanderlust” with Paul Rudd and Jen Aniston, Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Our Idiot Brother,” once again with Paul Rudd, “Step Brothers” with Will Ferrell, “How Do You Know” with Jack Nicholson and Reese Witherspoon, “The Holiday,” opposite Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law, as well as the comedy classic “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” again with Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd. She also starred in the Oscar and Golden Globe nominated drama “Revolutionary Road” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for director Sam Mendes.

Hahn made her Broadway debut in “Boeing-Boeing,” which won the 2008 Tony in the category of “Best Revival of a Play.” Additional theatre credits include “Dead End,” “Ten Unknowns,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Chaucer in Rome” and “Camino Real.”

In addition to her degree from Northwestern, Hahn also has a Masters in Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama.

Hahn, who will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts at the June 9 commencement ceremony, graduated from Northwestern’s School of Communication with a bachelor’s degree in theatre. Her professional acting career started in New York, where she and now husband, Ethan Sandler ’95, broke onto the scene.

Members of the 2024 graduating class heard from Hahn via video in a surprise reveal during the senior class formal Saturday night. 

“I’m going to be your commencement speaker … Tada!” she said. “To me, it really is like my greatest role that I’ve ever got a chance to play. … I am so excited for you humans, and I am so flattered to be your college doula into the next chapter of your lives.”

Honorary degree recipients

Katrina Adams

Katrina Adams will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. 

Former Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) player Adams is the first African American to lead the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the first two-term chairman and president (2015-2018) and the first former player to hold that honor.

Under her leadership, the USTA achieved several major milestones, including the opening of the USTA National Campus and the transformation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. To increase diversity for the sport of tennis, Adams led an unprecedented outreach effort into underserved communities. 

At Northwestern, Adams led the varsity tennis team to a Big Ten championship in 1986 and won the 1987 NCAA doubles championship with partner Diane Donnelly. Following her success at the collegiate level, Adams competed for 12 years on the WTA Tour. 

Upon retiring from professional tennis, Adams joined the USTA as a national coach. She became USTA chairman, CEO and president in 2015.  

She has earned many accolades, including being named two times to Adweek’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” list and Ebony magazine’s “Power 100” list. Adams has been inducted into the Boys & Girls Club of America Hall of Fame, Black Tennis Hall of Fame and Northwestern University Hall of Fame. 

She is also the author of “Own the Arena,” an inspiring memoir.

David Barstow 

David Barstow ’86 will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Barstow is the first reporter in American history to win four Pulitzer Prizes, which he earned over the course of 20 years at The New York Times. He also is the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

In 2019, Barstow and two colleagues were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for an 18-month investigation of President Donald Trump’s finances that debunked his claims of self-made wealth and revealed a business empire riddled with tax dodges. 

In 2013, Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab won for “Walmart Abroad,” a series that exposed Walmart’s aggressive use of bribery to fuel its rapid expansion in Mexico; in 2009, he won for “Message Machine,’’ his series about the Pentagon’s hidden campaign to influence news coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and in 2004 Barstow and Lowell Bergman were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for articles about employers who committed egregious workplace safety violations that killed or injured hundreds of American workers. 

Barstow is a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and an inductee of Medill’s Hall of Achievement. 

David Reitze 

David Reitze ’83 will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Science. 

A leader in the development of ultrasensitive gravitational-wave detectors and astronomy, Reitze has served since 2011 as executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, where a team of scientists opened a new window on the universe with the first observation of gravitational waves. 

In 2016, 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted their existence, the LIGO team reported the first confirmed detection of gravitational waves produced by two black holes colliding and merging to form a new, larger black hole. 

An ongoing project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation to develop and operate large-scale ultraprecise interferometric detectors, the LIGO team continues work on a new field of astrophysics using gravitational-wave detections.

Reitze obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics from Northwestern’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1983 and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990. 

Reitze is an elected fellow of the American Physical Society (2006), Optica (2015) and the American Association of the Advancement of Science (2019). He was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Discovery in 2017 for his leadership role in LIGO.