Hank Azaria returns to alma mater to speak at Tufts commencement May 22

Actor, producer and comedian is among six honorary degree recipients
March 15, 2016

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Public Relations


Robin Smyton


MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. (March 15, 2016) – Award-winning film, television and stage actor; producer; director and comedian Hank Azaria will return to his alma mater, Tufts University, to deliver the commencement address on Sunday, May 22, 2016. Azaria will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the ceremony to be held at 9 a.m. on The Green on Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus.

Azaria has won five Emmys and a Screen Actors Guild Award with his shape-shifting vocal chords and fluid acting. He is well-known for voicing numerous characters on the Emmy-winning animated television series The Simpsons, including Moe Szyslak, Clancy Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson and many others.

He currently appears on Showtime’s Ray Donovan and will star in The Public’s off-Broadway play Dry Powder directed by Thomas Kail. In addition, he recently completed production on the independent film Oppenheimer Strategies and HBO’s The Wizard of Lies.

Azaria has starred in many films including The Birdcage, Lovelace, Along Came Polly, America’s Sweethearts, Pretty Woman, Heat, Grosse Pointe Blank, Quiz Show, The Cradle Will Rock, Mystery Men and Shattered Glass. He has also had recurring roles on the television series Mad About You and Friends, and played the title character in the drama !Huff. He has appeared on stage in The Farnsworth Invention, Sexual Perversity in Chicago and the popular musical Spamalot, for which he received a Tony nomination.

Though known for his comedic acting, Azaria has also taken on dramatic roles including the TV films Tuesdays with Morrie and Uprising. He also worked behind the camera when he co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in the short film Nobody's Perfect, which debuted in 2004 at the Sundance Film Festival and won "Best Short" at the 2004 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

He completed his Tufts degree, with a major in drama, in 1987 but not without a bit of drama of his own. A self-described "very good student" at Tufts, Azaria has said that his grades dropped after he fell in love with acting. “I lost my concentration for academics," he said. "My heart was into pursuing acting and theater."  

Azaria marched with his graduating class in 1985 but was two credits shy of a diploma. A year later, after moving to Los Angeles, at his mother’s urging he went back to school at UCLA to earn the remaining credits needed for his Tufts degree.  In 1999, Azaria was given Tufts’ Light on the Hill Award, the highest honor bestowed by Tufts students on alumni.  

"Hank Azaria is truly a one-of-a-kind talent whose creativity has given pleasure to millions and demonstrated the power of the dramatic arts in our lives. We are proud to call him a Jumbo," said Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco.  "We are delighted that he will come back to campus to address our graduates, their families and the university."

In addition to Azaria, those receiving honorary degrees at Tufts commencement will include:

Janet Echelman, internationally recognized artist whose large-scale sculpture environments respond to the forces of nature — wind, water and light — and transform urban spaces. With unlikely materials, from fishing net to atomized water particles, Echelman creates permanent sculpture at the scale of buildings. Recent works include an aerial sculpture suspended over Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway and pieces in Vancouver; Phoenix; Porto, Portugal, and San Francisco.  (Honorary doctor of fine arts)

H. Jack Geiger, physician and human rights advocate, whose career has focused on health, poverty and civil rights. With Tufts colleagues, Dr. Geiger created the community health center model in the U.S., founding the nation's first two community health centers, in the Mississippi Delta and Boston, and pioneering a nationwide network that now serves 28 million low-income patients.  He is the Arthur C. Logan Professor of Community Medicine Emeritus at the City University of New York Medical School and served on the faculties of SUNY-Stonybrook School of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.  (Honorary doctor of public service)

Martin Granoff, entrepreneur, business leader and Tufts parent and trustee emeritus. His generosity made possible Tufts’ Perry and Martin Granoff Music Center, and he was instrumental in establishing the Granoff Family Hillel Center at Tufts. He is the founder and chairman of Val D’Or Inc/Cannon County Knitting Mills, chairman of Koret of California and founder and chairman of National Textiles.  He is a trustee of the National Hillel Foundation and former trustee of Brown University, from which he received an honorary degree.  (Honorary doctor of public service)

Sonia Manzano, actress and writer best known for playing Maria on Sesame Street for more than 40 years. Manzano won 15 Emmy Awards as a writer for Sesame Street and was twice nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series. In addition to writing for the stage, and television, she has written children’s picture books and young adult novels and actively supports efforts to encourage children to read. (Honorary doctor of fine arts)

Margot Stern Strom, president emerita and senior scholar of Facing History and Ourselves and an international leader in education for justice and the preservation of democracy. Her work has enabled millions of students and their teachers to study the Holocaust; investigate root causes of racism, antisemitism and violence, and realize their obligations and capabilities as citizens of a democracy. (Honorary doctor of humane letters)

In addition, Arianna Huffington, journalist, author, commentator and co-founder of the Huffington Post, will deliver the Class Day speech at Tufts' Fletcher School on Saturday, May 21.


Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.