Oprah Winfrey Stars in “Henrietta Lacks” and Commencement at Agnes Scott College

Photo: Stanford GSB

Agnes Scott College just got a “two-fer.”
First, the historic Decatur campus of the all-women’s liberal arts school landed a location credit last summer for the filming of the HBO movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” In it, an African-American woman becomes an unwitting pioneer for medical breakthroughs when her cells are used to create the first immortal human cell line in the early 1950s. Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the 1950s and her cancer cells (later known as HeLa) would change the course of cancer treatment.
Now the film’s top biller – Oprah Winfrey — will be accepting an honorary degree and be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2017 on May 13.
Although Winfrey’s presence on campus was kept a top secret during filming, Agnes Scott’s president, Elizabeth Kiss, was able to offer Winfrey a personal invitation to be the commencement speaker – citing the institution’s “diversity and commitment to women.” As well, one of the graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy is a graduating senior at Agnes Scott.
The announcement comes on the coat tails of the institution’s largest capital campaign. $115 million was raised – for its recently completed “The Greatness Before Us” campaign, exceeding a stated goal of $100 million.

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