Stephen Colbert Joins with NU-Q to Congratulate Class of 2020

May 05, 2020

The U.S. TV star, Stephen Colbert, made a surprise cameo in a video produced by NU-Q to celebrate its Class of 2020. The program also included messages from the president of Northwestern, dean of NU-Q, faculty, and students and was produced to celebrate the graduating class who had had its formal graduation ceremony postponed due to the global pandemic.

In his message to the class, Colbert told them that their graduation during a pandemic will teach them a lot about what being an adult means “and having to do what is right or what you know has to be done.” He congratulated them on their successes and said, “Stay strong, be brave, be daring, and have a wonderful life."

Dean Craig LaMay, who was named acting dean in January, hosted the celebration and told the seniors that they made his time serving as dean “a truly special experience,” and pointed out that the current global situation proves that “among the indispensable people in times of an existential crisis are filmmakers, and journalists, poets, playwrights, and artists. So, we will all have stories to tell and we all have stories to make. You have our love and administration as you embark on a new journey of your lives.”

In his remarks, President Morton Schapiro noted that the group joins more than 200,000 fellow Northwestern alumni and said that he is “confident that you will join other NU-Q alums in changing the world for the better, and you are prepared to do so. You have earned your place as a member of this esteemed [Northwestern alumni] community by virtue of your accomplishments inside and outside the classroom." 

The ceremony also featured a special address from Professor Ann Woodworth – who taught Colbert when he was a student at Northwestern – and has been teaching theater at Northwestern since 1983 – and in Doha since 2009. She is retiring from the university this year.

“You and I have a lot in common,” she told the seniors. “For one, we are both graduates of Northwestern University – you in 2020, me in 1975. But,” she added, “the most significant thing that we have in common, is that we are all storytellers. That is the bond that connects us."

Woodworth shared life lessons that were inspired by Anton Chekov. Using quotes from his work, Woodworth used each to illustrate a larger point. The lessons, she said, were to show up, pay attention, make a choice, and don’t get attached to the result.

Also speaking during the program was the president of the student union, Sarah Shaath, who also emphasized the role that NU-Q students and graduates play as storytellers. “We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, but what is keeping people going? Isn’t it other people’s stories? Our job is to ensure that other people’s stories are heard in a lens that’s worthy of them. We are a batch that is ready to conquer what the world has in store for them,” she said

The ceremony also included a compilation of video messages from NU-Q’s faculty, staff, and students who shared their good wishes and congratulations with the class of 2020 and a reading of their names by Amira Hariri, assistant director of admissions,  

LaMay closed the program by highlighting the unique nature of this graduation class. “This is a moment to celebrate what is, for me and many others, a very special class, a class that has displayed resilience, determination, and grown so much over the past four years,” he said.