Award-winning film producer, activist, and philanthropist Abigail Disney will be recognized Thursday, January 28, 2010 by Lawrence University with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
As part of the degree-granting ceremony in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, Disney will deliver the convocation “Peace is Loud,” an address based on her award-winning 2008 documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”
“Lawrence University is proud to be welcoming a woman of Abigail Disney’s passion, abilities and stature to campus and presenting her with an honorary degree,” said Lawrence President Jill Beck. “As we prepare our students for lives of achievement and meaningful citizenship, Ms. Disney epitomizes the ideals to which we hope they will aspire.”
In conjunction with Disney’s address, multiple showings of the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” will be held in the Warch Campus Center cinema in January: 1/7, 12 noon; 1/12, 7 p.m.; 1/20, 8 p.m., 1/28, 1 p.m. A special panel of Lawrence faculty and students will discuss issues raised in the film following the 8 p.m. screening on Jan. 20. All events are free and open to the public.
“I am so thrilled and honored to have been chosen for this honorary degree,” said Disney. “It was a bolt from the blue and a shot in the arm, to mix a couple of metaphors and I am so happy that it came from a wonderful and vibrant institution like Lawrence.”
Disney’s film chronicles the inspirational story of the courageous women of Liberia, whose efforts played a critical role in bringing an end to a long and bloody civil war and restored peace to their shattered country.
She served as the producer of “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” which earned critical praise and collected more than 15 awards, including the Best Documentary Award at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival, the Cowboy Award Winner – Audience Choice Award at the Jackson Hole Film Festival, the Social Justice Award for Documentary Film at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and the Golden Butterfly Award at the Movies that Matter Festival.
Disney founded and serves as president of the New York City-based Daphne Foundation, which supports grassroots and emerging organizations that deal with the causes and consequences of poverty, focusing on the creation and implementation of long-term solutions to intractable social problems.
She also has played a leadership role in a number of other social and political organizations, among them the New York Women’s Foundation, from which she recently retired as chair, the Roy Disney Family Foundation, the White House Project, the Global Fund for Women, the Fund for the City of New York and the Ms. Foundation for Women. In 1998, when the foundation’s namesake publication, Ms. Magazine, faced financial hardship, Disney joined with magazine founder Gloria Steinem and a group of other investors to form Liberty Media for Women, which secured the magazine’s future.
The grandniece of Walt Disney, founder of the Disney media and entertainment empire, she is the vice chair of the board of Shamrock Holdings Incorporated, a professional investment company that manages more than $1.5 billion in assets.
Disney earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, a master’s degree from Stanford University, and her Ph.D. from Columbia University.