Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
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April 24, 2002


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Related release: SMU Names Honorary Degree Recipients For 2002 Commencement

DALLAS (SMU) -- Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates, a 1969 graduate of Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts, will give the address May 18 at SMU's 87th annual commencement ceremony and will receive an honorary doctor of arts degree.

"Kathy Bates is an actress of gravitas whose work is highly respected by colleagues as well as by audiences," said Carole Brandt, dean of SMU's Meadows School of the Arts. "She represents the professional we aspire to educate and train and provides a consummate role model for our students."

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Bates performed in numerous SMU productions while earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from SMU.

"SMU's Theater Department in the late 60's was the place to be," she said. "The Meadows School itself had just been built. My freshman year they were doing plays in a tiny theater in Dallas Hall. By the time I had graduated just three and a half years later, the Margo Jones Experimental Theatre and the Bob Hope Theatre had been completed.

"Dr. Burnet M. Hobgood and Professor Jack Clay transformed the department into a proper conservatory where we worked at our craft on a daily basis. They took our training as artists as seriously as if we were studying to become doctors or lawyers."

After graduation Bates lived in New York and Washington, D.C., making her living waiting tables and working in the payroll department at the Museum of Modern Art while auditioning for parts. She worked in children's theater and dinner theater and even spent one summer as a singing waitress in the Catskills.

In 1975 another SMU graduate, Jack Heifner, wrote a play about three Texas cheerleaders called "Vanities," and as "Joanne", Bates truly began her career in the theater. Directed by SMU graduate the late Garland Wright, and designed by fellow graduate John Arnone, "Vanities" became one of the longest-running plays in off-Broadway history.

Bates spent the next 15 years working on and off-Broadway. She earned a Tony Award nomination for her role as the suicidal daughter in the Pulitzer Prize-winning "'night, Mother" and an Obie Award for her portrayal of the down-and-out waitress in "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune."

Bates won the 1990 Academy Award for Best Actress for "Misery." She has appeared in more than 50 motion pictures, including the Academy Award-winning "Titanic" (1997), "Dolores Claiborne" (1995) and "Fried Green Tomatoes" (1991). In 1999 she won the Screen Actors Guild Award and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her work in "Primary Colors."

Recent SMU commencement speakers have included Don Carty, American Airlines president and CEO; United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; George W. Bush, then Texas Governor; Robert S. Strauss, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation; and Dick Cheney, then chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Halliburton Company.