Actress Ellie Kemper ’02 has been selected as the keynote speaker for the University’s Class Day ceremony on Monday, June 3, 2019, according to a University statement. Every year, a committee of graduating seniors selects the keynote speaker.
Kemper was a cast member on “The Office” and currently stars on the Emmy-nominated Netflix show “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” She has received two nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards for that leading role.
She also had leading roles in films, such as “Bridesmaids” and “21 Jump Street,” and has guest-hosted “The Ellen Degeneres Show” and co-hosted “Today” on NBC.
She is also a writer and will publish a collection of personal essays in October.
“For many of us in the Class of 2019, Ellie Kemper has been a part of our lives since childhood, when we would gather with family and friends on Thursday nights to watch ‘The Office,’” Class Day co-chair Jordan Salama said in the statement. “Today, she continues to command a strong and funny presence in Hollywood with her unique voice, and we could not be more pleased to welcome her as a testament to Princeton’s everlasting commitment to the arts.”
Kemper is a former member of Quipfire!, an improv comedy group at the University.
Jonah Herzog-Arbeitman ’19 has been a member of the group since his first semester at the University, and told the ‘Prince’ Wednesday that Quipfire! members have expressed support for bringing Kemper to campus for big events.
“Some of our members may have excitedly put her name down,” he said, but clarified that the final decision was made independent of the comedy troupe.
In an email to the Class of 2019 announcing the decision, the Class Day Committee wrote that the decision was based on the University’s “unprecedented campaign” in recent years to support the arts and humanities on campus. The email cited the opening of the Lewis Center for the Arts and the University’s investment in student-led initiatives in the arts and humanities as the basis for their decision.
The email also noted that the committee wanted to mark the 50th anniversary of co-education on campus and cited Kemper’s own connections to the introduction of co-education at the University.
“This year, we are honored to welcome a speaker who not has not only demonstrated excellence as [a] Princeton alumna in the public eye, but whose mother Dorothy Jannarone Kemper ’72 and aunt Julie Kemper ’78 laid the foundation for her success and the success of all the women who followed in their footsteps at this great University,” the email wrote.
Kemper was also a member of the Princeton Triangle Club, which accepted its first female member in 1968, one year before the University officially went co-ed. That first female Triangle member was a graduate student, according to Triangle Vice President Emily Kunkel ’19.
“Triangle has really been historically co-ed,” Kunkel said, compared to musical theater groups at other Ivies.
Harvard’s “Hasty Puddings Theatricals” only let women join the cast this year, for example.
Kunkel said it is great that the Class Day Committee is giving a female comedian attention. She said that women in comedy should be given just as many ”platforms” and as much “respect” as their male peers.
“We’re really excited that she’s engaging with the [University] community again,” Kunkel said.
Prior to her professional acting career, Kemper received her undergraduate degree from the Department of English at the University. She would later study at Worcester College at the University of Oxford, where she was working towards a graduate degree in English.
During her time as an undergraduate, she was an active writer and actor for the Triangle Club and also a member of Theater Intime. According to the email, she played field hockey at the University, where she was a part of the 1998 National Championship-winning team.
According to the University statement, the Class Day ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 3, 2019 with a class procession. The ceremony itself will start at 10:30 a.m.