Emmy-Award-Winning Actress to Speak at Commencement


We are very excited to welcome Ann Dowd ’74 as our 178th Commencement speaker on May 25, 2019, under a tent on the main quad. Dowd won a Best Supporting Actress Emmy in 2017 for her role as the ruthless Aunt Lydia in Hulu’s dystopian drama, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Dowd, a native of Holyoke, Massachusetts, has had a successful and varied 30-year career acting in films, on television, and on stage. Her IMDB profile lists 99 acting credits. As a student at Williston, she played Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and Lilly Sears in Tea and Sympathy. She went on to study at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, where she took theater and pre-med classes. She nearly went to medical school, but decided to follow her heart and pursued drama instead.

In addition to her Emmy, she has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Critics Choice Award for her work on “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She received another Emmy nomination for her performance as Patti Levin on the HBO series The Leftovers, created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta.

In 2013, Dowd was the recipient of Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of Review for her performance as Sandra in Craig Zobel’s controversial psychological thriller Compliance, inspired by true events. She was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and Critic’s Choice Award for the role. In 2018, she shared the screen with Toni Collette in A24’s horror hit Heriditary, directed by Ari Aster, as well as a supporting turn in Bart Leyton’s American Animals with Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan.

On television, Dowd performed alongside Frances McDormand in “Oliver Kitteridge,” held recurring roles on “Good Behavior,” “Masters of Sex,” “Quarry,”Nothing Sacred,” “Judging Amy,” “Third Watch,” “Freaks and Geeks,” and memorable appearances on “True Detective,” “Louie, Girls,” “House,” “Chicago Hope,” “The X-Files,” “NYPD Blue” and nine different characters within the “Law & Order” franchise. Her film work includes A Kid Like Jake, Captain Fantastic, Collateral Beauty, St. Vincent, Bachlorette, Side Effects, Flags of Our Fathers, The Informant!, Marley & Me, The Manchurian Candidate, Garden State, and Philadelphia.

Ann has starred on stage in plays including The Normal Heart, Doubt, Blood from a Stone, and on Broadway in The Seagull with Kristen Scott Thomas and Carey Mulligan, Taking Sides with Elizabeth Marvel, and Candida alongside Mary Steenburgen.

  • Dowd wrote this first person story for Glamour magazine about having patience, gratitude, and—yes—manners, and how she found success in her 50s.
  • Read an interview Dowd did with GQ, where she talks about the roles she’s performed throughout her career, which include, incredibly, five nuns.
  • Dowd reflects on her time at Williston in this Bulletin story.