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Brooke Shields '87 Speaks at Princeton's Class Day 2011

The actress tells students she learned invaluable lessons at Princeton University.

Remember when you were a Princeton University student and your rock star boyfriend broke up with you to concentrate on his solo career?

Or when you were excused from a midterm because a visiting foreign prince wanted to meet you?

And who could forget when LIFE magazine published your college grades?

Oh right, that wasn’t your Princeton experience, that’s what happened to model, actress and author Brooke Shields while she was a student.

Shields, a 1987 Princeton graduate who earned her degree in French literature, returned to campus on Monday as the Class Day 2011 keynote speaker.

Class Day included student speakers, awards and induction of honorary class members.

Despite thunder and heavy rain early Monday morning, the sky was clear and the sun shining by the time the ceremony began at 10 a.m. on Cannon Green behind Nassau Hall.

"Twenty-four years ago I was sitting right out there, where you sit today," Shields said. "And I was wearing this signed and decorated orange and black jacket. It has Class of '87 painted all over it! My hair was huge! My Reeboks white. My jeans acid-washed.

"You weren't even born," she said. 

The acclaimed actress said she had a moment of self-doubt when she received the invitation to speak at Class Day (was she a second choice? Had Snooki, the popular pint-sized start of MTV’s Jersey Shore, declined, she wondered).

Despite decades of living in the limelight and being as an actress on television shows including “Suddenly Susan” and “Lipstick Jungle,” the thought of returning to Princeton was daunting.

“Nothing could rattle me, except coming here and talking to all of you,” Shields said, her voice wavering. “It is because of love, awe, respect and gratitude that I have for this institution that it feels so precious to be standing here.”

Shields told students to revel in their final hours as Princeton students and enjoy their accomplishments.

“You have worked hard- now some of you worked harder than others—but you still all get the rare moniker of Princeton University graduate and that can never be taken away from you for the rest of your life” she said.

The Princeton name may open doors, but the degree should not come with a sense of entitlement, Shields said.

The actress has had to prove herself over and over again. First, her high school advisor said she may not be admitted to Princeton or even graduate. Shields was not only granted admission,, she graduated with honors.

At Princeton, Shields tried out for, but was rejected by the Tiger Lilies, an all-female a cappella group. She was devastated, but not deterred. Now she’s preparing to star in her fifth Broadway musical.

“You’re leaving here not so much changed, as rather, revealed,” Shields said. “My time spent here was a huge gift, not just because of education, but because complicated and beautiful friendships that I still rely on today.”

Hilary Morris May 31, 2011 at 05:31 PM
This was a fun read! Love the beginning--happens to all college students right!

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