Michelle Yeoh and Lawrence Herbert Receive Honorary Degrees at AFI Class of 2022 Commencement – American Film Institute


Michelle Yeoh and Lawrence Herbert Receive Honorary Degrees at AFI Class of 2022 Commencement

Today, AFI conferred a Doctorate of Fine Arts degree honoris causa for contributions of distinction to the art of the moving image upon Michelle Yeoh, who is the first Asian artist to receive the AFI honor; and a Doctorate of Communication Arts degree honoris causa upon AFI Trustee Emeritus Lawrence Herbert for his commitment to the mission of the American Film Institute. Yeoh and Herbert were recognized during the AFI Conservatory’s commencement ceremony celebrating the Class of 2022 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

AFI Class of 2022 Commencement – Photo Credit: Randall Michelson

Welcoming the honored guests, graduates, friends and family, AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale recalled the incredible legacy of the theater and how the Class of 2022 is now part of the storied building – and on the precipice of creating their own history. Reflecting on the “incredibly powerful, often unspoken nature” of what filmmakers do, Gazzale said, “You gather us together. You are a healing force. You are a catalyst for empathy, which is one of the rarest commodities in the world today.”

In congratulating the graduates for their dedication to the rigorous two-year Master of Fine Arts program, Susan Ruskin, Dean of the AFI Conservatory and Executive Vice President of AFI, spoke about the surprises, wonder and awe awaiting them in their careers and said, “You define the stories you want to tell, and they also help to define you.”

The event also included speeches from the Class of 2022 Representative Haley Beasley; AFI President Emerita Jean Picker Firstenberg; and EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.

In introducing Yeoh, The Daniels said, “We were very fortunate to have the great privilege of getting to work with the legend, Michelle Yeoh. One of the first things we realized about her was how much kindness she has for the people around her…Not just her kindness, her work ethic, her willingness to be playful and vulnerable, and her bravery.”

Photo by Michael Kovac/ AFI

Yeoh has appeared in more than 70 features and television series, with her filmography showcasing a collection of iconic roles, including CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, TOMORROW NEVER DIES, SUNSHINE and CRAZY RICH ASIANS. After appearing in the second installment of the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY franchise, Yeoh returned to the Marvel universe in SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. In March, she starred in the mind-bending, critically acclaimed EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE.

Addressing the graduates, Yeoh encouraged the next generation of filmmakers to “feel deeply, work passionately.” Adding, “If you hold onto the love of your craft, I promise you that your art will carry you. Be courageous, take chances, break barriers, be proud of what makes you unique. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to fall, because you are learning to fly.”

Lawrence Herbert, introduced by Jean Picker Firstenberg and honored for his support of AFI’s mission, spoke about the power of storytelling, “There is nothing more important than the stories you will tell, because you never know who you will inspire.”

Photo by Michael Kovac/ AFI

Herbert made his mark as the driving creative force behind inventing a variety of color systems, including the world-renowned PANTONE® MATCHING SYSTEM®, which have become the standards for global communication of color in the printing, publishing, packaging, graphic arts, paint, plastics, coatings, computer, film, video, textiles and fashion industries. Herbert joined the AFI Board of Trustees in 1987 and served until 2017. In 2020, his extraordinary commitment to AFI established the Lawrence Herbert Alumni Center on the AFI Campus.

Yeoh and Herbert join an esteemed group of distinguished past recipients, including Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Saul Bass, Angela Bassett, Kathryn Bigelow, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Anne V. Coates, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, Nora Ephron, Jodie Foster, Lesli Linka Glatter, James Earl Jones, Lawrence Kasdan, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Angela Lansbury, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, Paul Schrader, Quentin Tarantino, Lily Tomlin, Robert Towne, Cicely Tyson, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.


Learn more about AFI, ranked the #1 film school in America, by visiting AFI.edu.

Comments (1)

Von Baldwinson

Terrific post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic?
I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.

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