Society Column: Actress Meryl Streep receives honorary degree


About 3,200 people gathered at the IU Auditorium in Bloomington on April 16 for the conferral of an honorary doctoral degree to Meryl Streep in recognition of her achievement of excellence in cinema.

During his opening remarks, IU President Michael McRobbie said, “By disappearing into her roles, Meryl Streep has made the world visible to us, and all of us are truly grateful.”

A post-ceremony interview was conducted by Barbara Klinger, a professor of film and media studies. Klinger’s first question was to ask Streep how she came to the acting profession.

“I think I was like every other girl who puts on a princess dress and expects everyone to pay full attention,” Streep said. “Most of us grow out of that.”

As the audience burst into laughter, Streep then talked about empathy as one of the ways she connects with people she plays.

“It’s possible for people of very diverse backgrounds to feel the feelings of someone not remotely like them. Even crossing the gender line and the age line, even all the things that divide us … That’s such an interesting, underused quality human beings have.”

Streep received her undergraduate degree at Vassar and a master’s degree at Yale. She speaks several languages fluently and was said to have a photographic memory when she was younger. Despite all her successes, Streep said she feels lucky to have had the opportunities she has been afforded.

Streep is widely recognized as one of the greatest living actors, with a body of work spanning four decades. She has been nominated 18 times for an Academy Award and 28 times for a Golden Globe, more than any actor in the history of either award. She has won three Academy Awards and eight Golden Globes.

Lesser known, is the fact that she is a tireless philanthropist who regularly supports numerous charities. She is the official spokesperson for the National Women’s History Museum, and she and her husband, Don Gummer, publicly support Artists for Peace and Justice, Equality Now, and Healthy Child Healthy World, to name a few.

Also, a lesser known fact is Streep’s ties to Indiana. Her husband is a sculptor who graduated from Ben Davis High School and then attended Herron School of Art at IUPUI. He and Streep continue to be supporters of Herron, and Gummer has been commissioned by the State for several large sculptures.

Streep and Gummer are one of the few, perhaps the only husband and wife team, to each have received an honorary doctorate from IU.

Tonya Burton is the Current’s social scene columnist. You may contact her at 


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