Academy-Award winning producer Dede Gardner named Class Day speaker

Friday, March 30, 2018

Columbia College is pleased to announce that Academy-Award winning producer and Plan B Entertainment co-president Dede Gardner CC’90 will deliver the keynote address at the 2018 Columbia College Class Day ceremony. The annual event, which honors graduating seniors, will take place at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, on the South Lawns of Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus.

Gardner, who graduated from Columbia College in 1990, is the first female producer to win two Academy Awards for Best Picture, in addition to numerous other honors and recognitions, and is co-president of Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B Entertainment.

Dede Gardner

Photo: Eileen Barroso

Throughout her career, she has produced many films including: Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” which earned her an Academy Award for Best Picture; Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” and Ava DuVernay’s “SELMA,” both of which received Academy Award nominations; Ryan Murphy’s “Feud” series and his Emmy Award-winning “A Normal Heart”; Steve McQueen's Academy Award-winning “12 Years A Slave”; and Terrence Malick's Palme d'Or-winning and Academy Award-nominated “The Tree of Life.”

Gardner remains an active alumna of Columbia College, where she majored in comparative literature and English. She currently serves on the Columbia College Board of Visitors and has spoken about her illustrious career to alumni, faculty, parents and students at both regional and campus events. She received a 2012 John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement from Columbia College at the annual John Jay Awards Dinner at Ciprani 42nd Street in New York City.

"We are thrilled that Dede Gardner has accepted our invitation to speak to the graduating class of 2018,” said James J. Valentini, dean of Columbia College and vice president for undergraduate education. “Dede's journey with us began when she sat in her Core Curriculum classes at the College, exploring questions that encourage self-reflection, and she has since used those introspective and storytelling skills to bring powerful films to the public eye. She is a distinguished alumna who epitomizes all the possibilities our students have in front of them, and we are looking forward to welcoming her back to campus for Class Day.”

After graduating from Columbia College, Gardner worked as a location scout in New York City and then went on to take positions at Innovative Artists and the William Morris Agency. Before her current role at Plan B, she served as executive vice president of production at Paramount Pictures.

Gardner’s more recent work includes Mike White’s “Brad’s Status,” James Gray’s “The Lost City Of Z,” David Michôd’s “War Machine,” and Bong Joon-Ho’s global adventure feature “Okja” in 2017. Currently, she is in post-production on Felix Van Groeningen’s “Beautiful Boy,” Adam McKay’s “Untitled Cheney Film,” Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and James Gray’s sci-fi feature “Ad Astra.” She is also developing and prepping Plan B’s second feature with David Michôd and exploring new film endeavors with auteurs such as Andrew Dominik, Adam McKay and James Gray, and series projects with Netflix, Amazon, HBO and FX.

“Ms. Gardner has paved her own way in history as the first female producer to win two Academy Awards – I’m absolutely thrilled she’ll be coming to speak at our Class Day. It’ll be truly humbling to absorb the wisdom of someone who’s helped create films that have delivered such profound messages,” said John Avendano CC’18, senior class president.

The Class Day speaker is selected annually by the College, based on a list of recommendations from the senior class council.