ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – In February, North Carolina Wesleyan University announced that award-winning actress Sharon Lawrence would be their April 2020 commencement speaker. Later, due to ongoing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College announced that the ceremony would have to take place virtually. Lawrence still took the time to send the graduates her congratulations and encouragement via video, with the hope that she would be able to address them in-person at the December ceremony. That hope is now coming to fruition with Lawrence scheduled to return in-person to address the Class of 2020 at NC Wesleyan’s Winter Commencement taking place on December 5.
Lawrence is an award-winning actress with roles on NYPD Blue, Dynasty and can most recently be seen opposite Kirsten Dunst in Showtime’s On Becoming a God in Central Florida. She currently appears on several different television series, including: Shameless, Criminal Minds, Grey’s Anatomy, the CBS comedy, “Me, Myself and I,” and the Apple + series Home Before Dark. A native of North Carolina, she was born in Charlotte and later moved to Raleigh where she graduated from Broughton High School. Lawrence attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.
“Based on her ties to North Carolina and success in the entertainment industry, we are overly enthusiastic to have Sharon Lawrence speak to our graduates in December. With our Entertainment Arts major and her ability to demonstrate that anything is possible with a solid education, she was a natural fit to be our commencement speaker,” stated Dr. Evan D. Duff, President of North Carolina Wesleyan University.
While at UNC, Lawrence was very active onstage with the college’s Playmakers Repertory Company. She is a proud founding member, and prior leading actress, at the North Carolina Theatre, which is still going strong after 36 years at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium. She is also the daughter of Tom Lawrence, former news reporter for WRAL News in Raleigh.
Lawrence is also an accomplished Broadway stage actress and a 2012 Lunt-Fontanne Ten Chimneys Fellow, recently starring in “A Kid Like Jake” at the Pasadena Playhouse. She previously chaired the Women In Film Foundation where she incubated and managed corporate partnerships with Netflix and the Dr. Scholl Foundation. Lawrence is still active in supporting women in the industry and currently serves as a Trustee of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.
“Celebrating the Wesleyan commencement is a meaningful opportunity for me not only as a native North Carolinian, but because my creative roots are here,” stated Lawrence. “My passion and career were nurtured by North Carolina schools and churches, by its outdoor dramas, local and professional theaters and its commitment to the performing arts. Your investment in education and the arts is an investment in your minds and hearts.”
The College’s Winter Commencement will be on the front lawn of the Braswell Administration Building Saturday, December 5, 2020. This will be a closed event, open only to graduates, faculty and the platform party. This will allow the College to ensure physical distance and the safety of those participating in commencement. The event will be live streamed and recorded so that family and friends will be able to celebrate with their students virtually.