Carnegie Mellon University
April 23, 2015

Alan Alda To Give Keynote Address at Carnegie Mellon Commencement, May 17

Award-Winning Actor Exemplifies CMU’s Interdisciplinary Strengths

By Ken Walters / 412-268-1151 /

Alan AldaAlan Alda, an acclaimed actor, writer and director who has a passion for science and technology, will be the keynote speaker at Carnegie Mellon University’s 118th Commencement at 11 a.m., Sunday, May 17 in Gesling Stadium on the Pittsburgh campus. Alda, who exemplifies Carnegie Mellon’s interdisciplinary strengths in the arts and sciences, also will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.

A seven-time Emmy Award winner, Alda is best known for his starring roles as Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series “M*A*S*H” and as Arnold Vinick in “The West Wing.”

As a science enthusiast, Alda hosted “Scientific American Frontiers” on PBS for 11 years, interviewing leading scientists from around the world. He has worked on award-winning PBS programs “The Human Spark,” which explored what makes us human, and “Brains on Trial,” which focused on the implication of contemporary brain science for the U.S. justice system and included an interview with CMU’s renowned neuroscientist Marcel Just.

He helped found the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, where he is a visiting professor, and since 2008, he has worked with physicist Brian Greene on presenting the annual World Science Festival in New York City. He received the 2013 Scientific American Lifetime Achievement Award and was recently elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in recognition of his work in advancing the communication of science.

“Carnegie Mellon is uniquely positioned at the intersection of arts and technology, which makes Alan Alda a perfect choice as our commencement speaker,” said CMU President Subra Suresh. “His outstanding career in film and television and his passion for the arts, science and technology serve as shining examples to our 2015 class. We are pleased to welcome Alan Alda to CMU as our commencement speaker.”

Nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in the 2004 film “The Aviator,” Alda has starred in many other films, including “Same Time Next Year,” “California Suite,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and “The Seduction of Joe Tynan,” which he wrote. He also starred in, wrote and directed “The Four Seasons,” “Sweet Liberty,” “A New Life” and “Betsy’s Wedding.”

He has the distinction of being nominated for an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy, and publishing a bestselling book, all in the same year (2005).

Brooke KueiStudent Speaker: Brooke Kuei

Kuei is graduating with University Honors with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a minor in professional writing.

An active member of the campus community, she was a teaching assistant for physics classes, a mentor for the physics outreach program, a founding member of CMU’s women’s varsity golf team, Science and Technology editor of the student newspaper, and managing editor of the Dossier Literary and Arts Magazine.

She will be attending Penn State University in the fall to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering and to advance her research in energy science.

Honorary Degree Recipients:

It is a Carnegie Mellon tradition to award honorary degrees at commencement to exemplary leaders, whose life and work serve as an inspiration for Carnegie Mellon students, faculty and staff. In addition to Alda, this year’s honorary degree recipients are:

honorary degree group
(l. to rt.) Joyce Kozloff, Kai-Fu Lee, Judea Pearl, Stephen Schwartz and Carl Wieman

Joyce Kozloff, a major American visual artist whose work fuses pattern and movement with social engagement, will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Kozloff, who earned her bachelor’s degree at CMU in 1964, has described her art as blending “a love for widespread artistic traditions with an activist temperament.”

Kai-Fu Lee, a prominent computer scientist, venture capitalist, corporate leader, writer and former CMU faculty member, will receive a Doctor of Business Practice degree. He earned his Ph.D. from CMU in 1988, when he developed Sphinx, the first large-vocabulary, speaker-independent, continuous speech recognition system for his doctoral thesis. Founding president of Google China, he was named one of the most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2013.

Judea Pearl*, internationally known for his contributions to artificial intelligence, human reasoning, causality and the philosophy of science, will be presented with a Doctor of Science and Technology degree. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) described Pearl’s work as “revolutionizing the understanding of causality in statistics, psychology, medicine, and the social sciences.”

* Pearl is unable to attend commencement due to a family illness. Carnegie Mellon plans to award the degree to Pearl at a future event.

Stephen Schwartz, one of the most successful songwriters in the history of musical theater with three Academy awards, four Grammy awards and four Drama Desk awards, will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts degree. He graduated from CMU in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in drama. As a student he wrote “Pippin,” which opened on Broadway in 1974. His other credits include “Godspell,” “The Magic Show” and “Wicked.”

Carl Wieman, who shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics, will be awarded a Doctor of Science and Technology degree. While his research continues, his main pursuit in recent years has been on improving undergraduate physics and science education. He is a member of the Global Learning Council, which is chaired by CMU President Subra Suresh.

Learn more about the honorary degree recipients.

More than 3,000 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees will be conferred at Carnegie Mellon’s main commencement ceremony.

The ceremony will be webcast at