Emmy Award-winning actor, producer, best-selling author and philanthropist Sheryl Lee Ralph will deliver the keynote address to nearly 500 graduating students at Norfolk State University’s Commencement Ceremony. The 111th Commencement will take place at 9 a.m., Saturday, December 9, 2023, at Joseph G. Echols Memorial Hall, located on the campus of Norfolk State University.
Ralph, a versatile actor, has performed on Broadway, in films and on television. She can currently be seen on ABC’s award-winning smash-hit Abbott Elementary. Ralph shines in her role as Barbara Howard, a longtime, respected teacher. The show opened to critical acclaim during its first season, winning three Emmys, with Ralph earning the statue for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
Her additional television credits include Moesha, Nickelodeon’s hit series Instant Mom, Ray Donovan, and appearances on Barbershop, ER, It’s a Living, New Attitude, George, Designing Women, Two Broke Girls, Smash, Criminal Minds, MacGyver, One Mississippi, and Claws. Ralph recurred as President Kelly Wade, on Freeform’s supernatural drama series Motherland.
On the big screen, Ralph has worked with some of Hollywood’s leading and award-winning men, such as Denzel Washington, Robert de Niro, Danny Glover and Eddie Murphy. She also appeared opposite Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act II. Ralph picked up a win for Best Supporting Actress at the Independent Spirit Awards for her performance in To Sleep with Anger, starring Danny Glover.
On stage, Ralph created the role of Deena Jones in the original cast of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, nods for Tony and Drama Desk Awards. Ralph most recently appeared on Broadway as Madame Morrible in Wicked, becoming the first African-American actress to take on the classic role. She also holds the title of producer on Broadway’s “Thoughts of a Colored Man. She has authored the best-selling book Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl.
Ralph, a passionate health advocate and honored AIDS activist, is the founder of the non-profit DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed) Foundation, which she created in memory of the many friends she had lost to HIV/AIDS. She also created the critically acclaimed Divas Simply Singing!, an evening of song and entertainment that is the longest consecutive-running musical AIDS benefit in the country. Because of her unique use of the arts in HIV/AIDS activism, she was bestowed the first Red Ribbon Award at the United Nations and appointed as an AIDS Ambassador for Jamaica’s Ministry of Health.