Rita Moreno (photo by Mark Hill)

Rita Moreno to be Northeastern Commencement speaker

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Award-winning actress Rita Moreno will be the speaker for Northeastern Illinois University’s spring Commencement ceremony on May 11, 2015. The event is closed to the general public, but the event will be live streamed here.

Moreno belongs to an elite group of performers, having won each of the entertainment industry's most prestigious awards: the Oscar, the Emmy, the Tony and the Grammy.

During the Commencement ceremony, Moreno will be awarded a Northeastern Illinois University honorary doctorate degree in recognition of her outstanding achievements.

“Rita Moreno is an inspiration and a role model who has consistently demonstrated the value of a strong work ethic,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Richard J. Helldobler said. “We are thrilled and honored to welcome Ms. Moreno into the Northeastern Illinois University family.”

Born Rosa Dolores Alverio in the Puerto Rican town of Humacao, Moreno moved with her mother to New York at age 5 and began dance lessons. At age 13, she made her Broadway debut in “Skydrift.” In true Hollywood tradition, she was spotted by a talent scout and signed to a film contract by MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer.

Her Hollywood career advanced steadily, including roles in “Singin’ in the Rain” with Gene Kelly, and “The King and I” with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. After being awarded the Oscar and the Golden Globe in 1962 for her portrayal of Anita in “West Side Story,” Moreno was acknowledged as a major big-screen talent.

Creative diversity is the hallmark of Moreno's nearly 70-year career, which includes theater, television, cabaret, concerts and a bestselling memoir. She gives lectures on topics such as “The Value of Diversity to our Culture” and “The Power of Language,” and is involved with numerous civic and charitable organizations and events.

Over her career, Moreno has been presented with dozens of show business awards, as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995. In 2014, she was honored as the 50th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.

Commencement is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 11 at UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are required.