In a celebration of her public service, Anna Deavere Smith, the Ann O’Day Maples Professor of the Arts at Stanford University, is the recipient of the 2019 Richman Distinguished Fellow in Public Life, according to a Jan. 15 BrandeisNOW article.

The Fellowship was founded by Dr. Carol Richman Saivetz ’69, Michael Saivetz ’71 and Aliza Saivetz Glazer ‘01. It recognizes those “active in public life whose contributions have had a significant impact on improving American society, strengthening democratic institutions, advancing social justice or increasing opportunities for all citizens to realize and share in the benefits of this nation,” according to the prize’s website.  

Deavere Smith has created 15 one-woman stage plays, which often delve into the intricacies of race, selfhood and the social connection within communities of color, per the same BrandeisNOW article. Smith was awarded the 1994 NAACP Best Image Award for best playwright and best actress and the 1993 and 1994 New York Drama Critics Awards for her play “Twilight: Los Angeles,” which she wrote in 1992, according to her IMDb page. The actress is also known for her appearances on current television series such as “Black-ish,” and has made key appearances in Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and NBC’s “The West Wing.”

In addition to these achievements, Deveare Smith is a tenured professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2012 and was named the Jefferson Lecturer in Humanities, per BrandeisNOW. In 1993, she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in drama for her play “Fires in the Mirror,” which cemented her positive influence as a playwright early into her career, according to her IMDb biography.

Deavere Smith will be present on campus March 21 and 22, when she will be awarded the Richman Fellow prize and host a presentation entitled “Snapshots: Portraits of a World in Transition.”

Deavere Smith will join previous Richman Fellow awardees, including human rights activist Vanita Gupta (2017-18), Rebuilding Every Community Around Peace founder Rev. Jeffery L. Brown (2016-17), social activist Theaster Gates (2015-16), civil rights Leader Julian Bond (2014-2015), and PolicyLink founder Angela Glover Blackwell (2013-14).