Charles Smith

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Renowned playwright named inaugural fall commencement speaker

Ohio University today announced that Distinguished Professor of Playwriting Charles Smith will serve as the University’s inaugural fall commencement speaker.

Smith is head of Ohio University's Professional Playwriting Program and the Ohio University Presidential Research Scholar in Arts and Humanities. He recently completed a playwright in residence at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater.

“We are thrilled to have Distinguished Professor Smith address graduates at our first fall commencement ceremony,” said Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis. “His tremendous professional success in the theater and in the classroom is a shining example of what can be achieved at Ohio University. I know his perspectives and words of encouragement will be deeply meaningful to our graduates.”

As a graduate of the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop, Smith has received commissions from Victory Gardens, The Goodman, Seattle Repertory Theatre and Indiana Repertory Theatre, among others. His plays – many of which explore contemporary issues of race, identity and politics in America – have been produced around the nation. These include “Knock Me a Kiss,” “Takunda,” “City of Gold,” and “Pudd'nhead Wilson,” which enjoyed a twenty-two city national tour in 2001-02. Smith also authored two Emmy Award-winning teleplays, “Fast Break to Glory” and “Pequito.”   

An encouraging and open instructor, Smith’s innate ability to nurture the talents of students has garnered great recognition for Ohio University’s Professional Playwriting Program. In addition to serving on the Ohio University faculty, Smith taught playwriting at Northwestern University, for the Prague Summer Program in Creative Writing in the Czech Republic, and for the Center for Dramatic Art in Groznjan, Croatia.

During the course of his prolific career, Smith has earned numerous awards and accolades. These include the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, the Illinois Arts Council Governors Award, the Cornerstone National Playwriting Award and an NBC New Voices Award, among many others. His outstanding scholarly and creative accomplishments were recognized by Ohio University in 2010 with a Distinguished Professor Award, the highest permanent recognition attainable by faculty at Ohio University.

“It is an honor to be selected as the speaker for this inaugural fall commencement ceremony. Selecting someone from the Arts emphasizes Ohio University’s continued recognition of the value of the Arts and its place in our society,” said Smith.  

Ceremony Details

OHIO’s inaugural fall commencement ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, in the Convocation Center on Ohio University’s Athens Campus. Students who have met graduation requirements during the 2015 summer or 2015 fall semesters may participate in the ceremony. This includes students earning doctoral, professional doctoral, masters, or undergraduate degrees through any of our degree programs on all campuses or through e-Learning programs. 

The addition of a commencement ceremony at the conclusion of fall semester seeks to better accommodate students’ individuals needs and respective graduation timelines. This ceremony will be in addition to Ohio University’s traditional spring ceremony. For more information, visit