Beyond Vassar

President Honors Acting Legend: Meryl Streep '71

By Elizabeth Randolph

In March, Meryl Streep ’71 added to her list of honors a 2010 National Medal of Arts, bestowed by President Obama. The lifetime achievement award is given by the president to individuals or groups who “are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States.” Streep was cited “for her unrivaled contributions to American arts and culture as an actress of the stage and screen.”

Fellow 2010 recipients included pianist Van Cliburn, sculptor Mark di Suvero, poet Donald Hall, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, music producer Quincy Jones, fiction writer and To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, jazz musician Sonny Rollins, singer-songwriter James Taylor, as well as former Vassar instructor, theater critic, and playwright Robert Brustein.

Streep, a two-time Oscar-winner (and one who has earned the distinction of having more Academy Award nominations than any other actor in history), was unable to attend the awards ceremony. She was in London shooting the movie The Iron Lady, in which she portrays former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a role the actress has described as a “daunting and exciting challenge.”

“I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervor, and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses,” said Streep in a statement issued though the film’s production company, Pathé UK. “I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own.”

The role is the latest in a long line of transformations for the actress, who has thrilled audiences with her ability to immerse herself in her roles. (Lest we forget, she rendered herself unrecognizable as Matthew Vassar on the cover of the Vassar Quarterly'sSesquicentennial issue.) Is there any doubt she will rise to the occasion?