2011 Commencement Speaker

Toni MorrisonToni Morrison

Honorary Doctor of Letters Recipient

Toni Morrison, recognized as one of the most influential writers in American literary history, will be the keynote speaker at Rutgers’ 245th Anniversary Commencement.

Morrison, who in 1993 became the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature, also received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the first universitywide graduation ceremony at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway.

Morrison’s nine major novels—The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, Love, and A Mercy—have earned extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. Both novels were chosen as main selections for the Book-of-the-Month Club in 1977 and 1987, respectively. Additionally, Beloved was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as the best work of American fiction published in the last quarter century.

Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emerita, at Princeton University. She was appointed to that position in 1989 and held the post until 2006. Prior to her appointment at Princeton, Morrison was the Schweitzer Professor of the Humanities, College of the Humanities and Fine Arts, State University of New York at Albany, and a senior editor at Random House for 20 years.

Morrison has received numerous other prestigious awards, including the 2010 Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, 2000 National Humanities Medal, 2000 Library of Congress Bicentennial Living Legend Award, 1996 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and 1993 Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Morrison is a trustee of the New York Public Library and a member of the American Academy, the Institute of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a member of the American Philosophical Society, Cities of Refuge North America, and the Author’s Guild, where she served on the guild council and as foundation treasurer. She also served on the National Council of the Arts for six years.

Morrison earned a bachelor of arts in English from Howard University and a master of arts in English from Cornell University. She received an honorary Doctor of Letters at the 2011 University Commencement ceremony.