Menzel, Brunson to Speak
Tony Award–winning actress and singer/songwriter Idina Menzel will deliver the address at Penn’s 267th Commencement ceremony on May 15.
Known for her work on Broadway, Menzel originated the role of Maureen in Rent before rising to fame in the hit musical Wicked, for which she won a 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for playing the witch Elphaba.
Others might know her best as the voice of Elsa in Disney’s animated Frozen films, where she sang “Let It Go,” which won the 2014 Oscar for Best Original Song and reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Besides her other music albums and stage and screen appearances, Menzel is the cofounder of A BroaderWay Foundation, which offers girls from underserved communities an outlet for self-expression and creativity through the arts. She also coauthored the children’s book Loud Mouse and in 2022 released the documentary Which Way to the Stage? about juggling being a working mom while on a national tour.
Menzel, who will receive an honorary doctor of arts degree at the Commencement ceremony, “has contributed so much to America’s creative body of work and brought joy to us all,” Penn President Liz Magill said in the announcement. “A tremendous role model for pursuing your passion with hard work and determination, she is also devoted to creating opportunities for others through the arts.”
Two days earlier, on May 13, Quinta Brunson will deliver the keynote address at Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) Commencement.
A Philadelphia native, Brunson has skyrocketed to national fame as the creator and the star of Abbott Elementary, an Emmy Award–winning sitcom about a fictional, poorly funded, and predominantly Black elementary school in Philly.
In the show, Brunson plays an optimistic second-grade teacher … who graduated from Penn. (In real life, she went to Temple.)
Brunson, who was named to Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list in 2022, “puts a human face on teachers and elevates the work of teaching,” Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman said.