William & Mary

Jon Stewart to deliver Commencement address

Site Administration Jon Stewart, the nationally known comedian and actor, who is host and executive producer of Comedy Central’s "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," will deliver the Commencement address at the College of William and Mary on Sunday, May 16, 2004.

Known for his quick wit and political satire, Stewart, a member of the College’s class of 1984, will be awarded an honorary doctorate of arts by his alma mater. The honor joins a remarkable list of awards Stewart has received since taking over the nationally broadcast "The Daily Show" in January 1999. These recognitions include two 2003 Emmys for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.

"Jon Stewart nightly exposes the foibles and fables of both parties—and the media—through his creative and literate commentary," said President Timothy J. Sullivan. "His unique approach offers a welcome antidote to a sometimes self-important and all too often acrimonious political climate. Jon is also among the College’s most recognizable alumni, and we are honored to have him return to William and Mary to present our commencement address."

Also receiving honorary degrees at Commencement will be William Ivey Long, an award-winning costume designer on Broadway and a member of William and Mary's class of 1969; and Carolynn Reid-Wallace, the former president of Fisk University and a nationally recognized scholar. Long and Reid-Wallace, a Williamsburg native, will receive honorary doctorates of humane letters.

"Winner of multiple Tony Awards for theater costume design, alumnus William Ivey Long has enriched all of our lives through his life-long commitment to the arts," Sullivan said. "Throughout her distinguished career as a scholar and academic administrator, Carolynn Reid-Wallace has proven to be one of our nation's leading advocates for public education. We are honored to have both of these individuals receive honorary degrees from William and Mary."

Stewart is a top comedic performer
Jon Stewart is considered one of America's top social and comedic voices. A January 1999 article in The New York Times stated that as anchor of "The Daily Show," Stewart "has breathed new life into a show that hadn't seemed to need it." In July 2001, Time Magazine proclaimed Stewart "America’s Best Talk Show Host." Most recently, Stewart was featured on the cover of the January 5, 2004, Newsweek with the caption, "Seriously Funny – For Election Laughs, 'The Daily Show' Rocks." The Newsweek article stated that Stewart's show, which is actually a fake newscast, has taken over late night television with its "fearless social satire."

Stewart returned to his alma mater last year for a special show for students that attracted 3,000 people to William and Mary Hall. The audience was treated to an hilarious question-and-answer session about his time as an undergraduate. While at William and Mary, Stewart played wing for the men's soccer team and graduated in 1984 with a bachelor of arts in psychology.

"This was the place I developed my humor," Stewart told the students.

Following graduation, Stewart moved back home to New Jersey, where he worked several odd jobs, including stints as a busboy and as a construction worker. In 1987, he headed to New York City to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. His first regular gig came performing four nights a week at the Comedy Cellar in Manhattan. By 1989, Stewart was performing his stand-up routine in venues across the country.

His first talk show, "The Jon Stewart Show," aired on MTV from 1994-95. The critically acclaimed show ran for nine months in syndication and helped develop much of the cult fan base that Stewart enjoys today. Stewart also parlayed this popularity into starring roles in several feature films, including "Playing by Heart," a romantic drama where he starred opposite Gillian Anderson; "The Faculty," a horror-comedy by award-winning director Robert Rodriquez; and "Big Daddy," in which he starred with Adam Sandler in one of 1999's biggest hits.

Prior to taking over "The Daily Show," Stewart became a regular guest and served as a creative consultant for HBO’s "The Larry Sanders Show," where he played himself filling in as a guest host of a fictitious late-night talk show.

In 1999, Stewart became the anchorman of "The Daily Show," which has gone on to receive critical acclaim for its satire of political candidates, breaking news events and national media coverage. Stewart's unique perspective on the last presidential election—appropriately titled "Indecision 2000"—solidified his role as a notable cultural commentator. The feature also earned a George Foster Peabody Award, which recognizes distinguished achievement and meritorious service by radio and television networks, cable television organizations and individuals.

The Critics Choice Awards gave Stewart their Individual Achievement in Comedy Award, and the show received their award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. Critics Choice also nominated "The Daily Show" for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information. Stewart, also the author of Naked Pictures of Famous People, a collection of fictitious and humorous "what-if" essays that has appeared on The New York Times Best-Seller List, recently ranked second on Entertainment Weekly’s list of 25 funniest Americans.

Long is winner of four Tonys
A native of North Carolina, alumnus William Ivey Long has a resume that includes many of Broadway's most popular musicals over the past two decades. Starting in 1982 for his work on the original Broadway production "Nine," Long has won four Tony Awards for his eye-catching costume designs, including 1992's "Crazy For You," 2001's "The Producers," and 2002's "Hairspray."

Despite coming from a family filled with theater tradition – both his parents were theater professors at several universities – Long came to William and Mary in the 1960s to pursue another love – history. Although he majored in history at William and Mary and later spent three years as a fellow in art history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Long soon discovered his true passion. He headed north to pursue his M.F.A. in stage design at Yale University Drama School, where he studied with, among others, Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver.

Long's first Broadway show came in 1979 with "The 1940s Radio Hour," and he has since been nominated for seven Tony Awards for costume design. In addition to the Tonys, in 1990 William and Mary presented Long with the Leslie Cheek Award for Outstanding Presentation in the Arts. Long is also a former recipient of the Roanoke Island Historical Association’s Morrison Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the UNC-Chapel Hill Playmakers. He was named "Person of the Year" in 2000 by the National Theatre Conference. In 2003, Long received the Legend of Fashion Award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Reid-Wallace known for education initiatives
A Williamsburg native, Reid-Wallace was president of Fisk University from 2001-2003, and was largely responsible for raising academic standards and spearheading important renovations at the 138-year-old historically black college. A 1964 graduate of Fisk, she received her Ph.D. in English and American Literature from George Washington University.

Prior to becoming Fisk's first female president, Reid-Wallace was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and Senior Vice President for Education and Programming for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. At the Department of Education, she directed a staff of 1,250 federal employees and 10 regional offices focused on post-secondary education.