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Actress, Writer Mindy Kaling to Give Dartmouth’s Commencement Address in June

  • Actress Mindy Kaling attends the Hulu 2017 Upfront Presentation at La Sirena on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Hanover — Dartmouth College has announced that award-winning actress, writer and producer Mindy Kaling will deliver the 2018 commencement address in June.

Kaling, who graduated from the school in 2001, is known for her work on the television series The Office. She’s also directed and starred in The Mindy Project, and is the creator of the new NBC sitcom Champions.

Kaling was the first woman of color nominated for an Emmy for her writing on The Office, where she also played customer service rep Kelly Kapoor. Kaling also wrote two New York Times best-sellers — Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Why Not Me?

Kaling, the daughter of Indian-born parents Avu and Swati Chokalingam, grew up in Cambridge, Mass., where she also attended high school at the prestigious Buckingham Browne & Nichols School.

She came to Dartmouth to “pursue my love of white people and North Face parkas,” Kaling joked in her first book.

She later told Dartmouth Alumni Magazine that the campus and its “East Coast vibe — smart, but a little cynical” — attracted her to the school, where she studied theater.

While in Hanover, she joined the Rockapellas and improv group the Dog Day Players. Kaling also began writing plays, which earned her the Eleanor Frost Playwriting award from the school.

“I finally got to do and express what I was passionate about,” she wrote in Seventeen magazine in 2015. “The best part? People thought I was funny, and that gave me confidence and made me try more stuff, which made me even funnier!”

Kaling created the comic strip Badly Drawn Girl, which satirized campus life and was published daily in The Dartmouth.

After graduating, she found success writing and acting in Matt & Ben, an absurdist play about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck before they achieved success and fame from the movie Good Will Hunting.

The show, which also featured Dartmouth graduate Brenda Withers, launched Kaling’s career and ultimately led to her part in The Office.

Kaling’s speech will follow that of CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who delivered Dartmouth’s 2017 commencement address.

Television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, also a Dartmouth graduate, gave the commencement speech in 2014, and television host Conan O’Brien spoke at Dartmouth’s 2011 commencement.

During his speech, O’Brien poked fun at being given the honor, pointing out that former President George H.W. Bush was awarded an honorary degree on the same day.

“Before I begin, I must point out that behind me sits a highly admired president of the United States and a decorated war hero, while I, a cable television talk show host, has been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom,” O’Brien said to laughter from the graduating class. “I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today.”

Kaling interned at Late Night with Conan O’Brien when she was a sophomore at Dartmouth.

Dartmouth’s commencement is scheduled for Sunday, June 10. Kaling will receive an honorary degree, but other honorary recipients will be announced later, according to the college.

The school typically awards 1,000 bachelor’s degrees at the ceremony, along with 600 master’s and doctoral degrees.

The University of New Hampshire also announced its commencement speaker this week.

L.L. Bean Chairman Shawn Gorman, a 1989 graduate of the school, will deliver his address during the May 19 ceremony in Durham, N.H.

Gorman, the great-grandson of L.L. Bean founder Leon Leonwood Bean, took over as chairman of the company’s board in 2013. He graduated from UNH with a degree in English.

The University of Vermont in January named humanities scholar Alexander Nemerov as its 2018 commencement speaker. Nemerov, a 1985 UVM alumnus, is the chairman of the art and history department at Stanford University.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.



Dartmouth commencements in recent years have featured speeches from television celebrities Shonda Rhimes, in 2014, and Conan O'Brien, in 2011. CNN anchor Jake Tapper delivered the speech last year.