This Year’s Speaker

Writer/director Jim Simpson and actor Sigourney Weaver are two of America’s most respected and widely honored theater and film artists.

Simpson and Weaver, who have been married for nearly 40 years, will speak on the theme of “creative partnership.”

A distinguished writer and director, Simpson has directed over 70 works for the theater, as well as directing for film and television. Venues include nine seasons at the Williamstown Theater Festival, Alley Theater, Hartford Stage, Yale Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center, and Lincoln Center.

Simpson is a two-time winner of an Obie Award, which honors off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway productions in New York City. He also received the 2002 National Board of Review Excellence in Filmmaking award for The Guys, the story of a New York City fire captain who struggles to prepare and deliver eulogies for eight firefighters he lost on 9/11. In the same year, Simpson was honored for artistic leadership in Downtown New York by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Simpson is the brother of Monmouth College trustee and alumna Gail Simpson Owen.

Weaver is one of America’s most respected actors. Her most recent honor, presented on Feb. 10, was the International Goya Award. In making the award, the Spanish Film Academy praised Weaver’s “versatility, charisma, and talent” displayed across a wide variety of roles, as well bringing to life “independent, complex, and strong female characters” throughout her career. This is only the third time that the Spanish Film Academy has made this award.

Weaver’s professional career began on the stage in 1974 while she was still a student. In the next few years, she appeared in other theater productions and in small television and film roles.

Weaver’s breakthrough role came in 1979 as she played Lt. Ellen Ripley in the film Alien. She was an Academy Award and Golden Globe Best Actress nominee for that role, the first of many Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy, Tony, Grammy, BAFTA, and other awards and nominations over the course of her career.

For example, in 1988 she was the first of only four actresses in the history of the Golden Globes to win two awards in the same year — for Best Actress in Gorillas in the Mist and Best Supporting Actress in Working Girl. She was nominated for Academy Awards in the same categories for those two roles in 1989, one of only 12 actors to receive two acting nominations in the same year. She also received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Earth: The Book in 2011.

In addition to her professional career, Weaver has supported numerous worthy causes. Sparked by her role in Gorillas in the Mist, Weaver became an active supporter and honorary chair of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. She has also worked to protect deep-sea habitats and has been involved with the Trickle Up Program, which focuses on issues of extreme poverty, especially among women and disabled people.

Simpson and Weaver together founded The Flea Theater, an experimental theater based in New York City, which Simpson served as Artistic Director until 2015. The Flea received the 2004 Drama Desk award for “Downtown Adventurous Theater.”

Simpson and Weaver will each receive the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters as part of the Commencement Exercises.