Broadway star and University of North Carolina Greensboro alumna Beth Leavel gave the commencement speech at her alma mater today.

The Raleigh native came from a family with no interest in theater. Since graduating from the Master of Fine Arts program in 1980 she's performed in 14 Broadway shows and won several of the industry's highest honors including a Tony and Drama Desk Award.

She's also kept in touch with her Carolina roots with several campus visits to her alma mater where she gives masterclasses and offers advice to acting students. She says UNCG was the right place at the right time.

“And I probably for the first time felt like this is exactly where I'm supposed to be with the people I'm supposed to be with,” says Leavel. “And I had teachers that really changed my life by acknowledging my talent, improving my talent, and it gave me permission to go to New York emotionally and with confidence.”

During Friday's commencement ceremony, Leavel received an honorary doctorate. She's currently preparing for her next leading role. This summer she'll play Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada in Chicago ahead of its anticipated run on Broadway.

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