"Oprah Winfrey has established herself as one of the most compelling figures of this time," Brodhead said. "A media pioneer, she is a vivid example of the power of individual initiative. In her role as entertainer and entrepreneur, she has done as much to promote reading as anyone now alive. Through her work as a philanthropist, she has become a force for literacy and education around the world. We will be delighted to welcome her to Duke."
Madison Li, a senior biomedical engineering major from Statesboro, Ga., said she was "awestruck" to learn that Winfrey would be the commencement speaker.
"She is such an inspiration to making your mark on the community," said Li, co-chair of the senior gift committee. "She's a self-made woman. She made her dreams come true by working hard and having a vision, and that's inspirational, especially for women. Whatever speech she gives will really inspire the entire class."
Winfrey also will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the commencement ceremony.