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January 19, 2016

Lin-Manuel Miranda, star of Broadway hit 'Hamilton,' coming to UPenn

Miranda will serve as the University of Pennsylvania's commencement speaker in May

Education University of Pennsylvania
Lin-Manuel Miranda Contributed Art/University of Pennsylvania

Lin-Manuel Miranda composed and starred in the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton."

A little bit of Broadway will be coming to the University of Pennsylvania, as musical star Lin-Manuel Miranda has been selected to be the university's commencement speaker on May 16.

The 36-year-old playwright has been widely hailed for changing the face of musical theater through the use of color-blind casting and for his masterful blending of disparate musical genres. He wrote and stars in "Hamilton," a hip-hop-heavy show that tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

"Looks like I'll be up all night scribbling on May 15! Thanks for having me, Penn," tweeted Miranda on Tuesday.

Miranda brought his personal experiences as the son of Puerto Rican immigrants to the story of Caribbean-born Hamilton, portraying the man as the proverbial immigrant who rises up from nothing to become a hero and a scholar in America.

Miranda also wrote the music for "In the Heights," which won four Tonys and a Grammy and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Last year, the MacArthur Foundation awarded him a $625,000 "Genius Grant" to pursue further creative projects.

UPenn President Amy Gutmann called Miranda "one of the most innovative and stunningly brilliant artistic voices of and for our time."

"He has accomplished nothing short of remaking the great American artistic form of musical theater and telling the history of our founding through the most creative, evocative and thought provoking contemporary lens," she said in a statement.

Gutmann also announced that journalist and author David Brooks will be the baccalaureate speaker for the school's graduation ceremonies. Both Brooks and Miranda will receive honorary degrees from the university, alongside six more people:

  1. Somali doctor and human rights activist Hawa Abdi
  2. Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, also known for human rights activism
  3. Theoretical physicist Sylvester James Gates Jr.
  4. Wharton School professor Elizabeth E. Bailey
  5. Opera singer Renée Fleming
  6. Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel

For students who have worked nonstop for years to earn their degrees, a talk from this inspiring and groundbreaking composer should be satisfying indeed.