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Shining Light

drama / alumni

Judith Light’s distinguished acting career and her active support for the LGBTQ community will take center stage at Carnegie Mellon University this May, when she will be presented with the Alumni Association’s most illustrious honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Light’s career has spanned five decades and garnered multiple awards, including Tonys and Daytime Emmys. A 1970 graduate of the School of Drama in Carnegie Mellon’s College of Fine Arts, she stars in Amazon’s groundbreaking and Emmy-award winning television comedy “Transparent,” a role for which she has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I owe a lot of that to my training at Carnegie Mellon — to be flexible, powerful and resilient — and to use our instrument in all different ways for all different avenues of the business,” Light said.

Her stage career includes six Broadway productions, including back-to-back Tony award winning turns in “Other Desert Cities” in 2012 and “The Assembled Parties” in 2013. She also has been a prominent face on television since the 1970s, with starring roles in ABC’s soap opera “One Life to Live,” the long-running ABC sitcom “Who’s the Boss,” the ABC comedy “Ugly Betty” and as Shelly Pfefferman on “Transparent.”

In addition to her acting career, Light has been a prominent advocate of the LGBTQ community, supporting organizations, including Point Foundation and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

“Judith stands out as an exceptional artist, an actress who is not only well respected in the industry, but also has shown a great commitment to social justice issues,” said Carnegie Mellon’s Director of Alumni Relations for Campus & Volunteer Engagement Lynn DeFabio. “She is making an impact in the world through her passionate involvement in many organizations and charities representing the LGBTQ community and the fight to end AIDS.”

Light said the roots of her advocacy began in drama school. “I had a professor early on who talked about the privilege of what it meant to be in this business. “He said ‘we are in the service business. You are being of service to people. You are allowing them to come into a theater or to watch a film or a television show, and you are giving them another perspective of who a person might be, and what their life might be like.’ Your work is not about your ego — it’s about who you’re serving, and what’s the best way you can serve.”

This past December, Light was honored with the Elizabeth Taylor Award for her activism from the nonprofit organization ACRIA, which supports HIV research. She received the award from 1999 School of Drama alumnus Zachary Quinto, who said, “I honestly don’t know how one person could say or do more.

Peter Cooke, head of Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama, said Light embodies what every drama alumnus should have. “I want empathy, passion and technique to be the triple threat of the Carnegie Mellon dramat,” he said.