Sam Waterston of ‘Law & Order’ will speak at Princeton’s 2024 Class Day

Emmy-award winning actor Sam Waterston, known for his longtime role on the NBC series “Law & Order,” will speak to Princeton seniors at the Class Day ceremony scheduled for Monday, May 27, on Cannon Green.

Sam Waterston

Class Day, which takes place the day before Princeton’s Commencement, is organized by members of the senior class. The ceremony also includes speeches by graduating seniors, the recognition of class members for their contributions and the induction of honorary class members.

Waterston has starred in countless television, film and stage roles and has been nominated for Emmy, Academy and Tony awards. In February, he stepped down from his celebrated “Law & Order” role as district attorney Jack McCoy after appearing in more than 400 episodes since 1994. Of the justice-seeking McCoy, Waterston said in a February interview with “He doesn’t just think he’s right — he knows he’s right and he loves the fight.”

In a video message to fellow seniors, Class Day Committee members said Waterston’s “commitment to his craft and various art forms is especially inspiring” as students prepare to follow their own passions and career paths after graduating from Princeton.

The students noted that Waterston’s career has spanned more than five decades, with such roles as Hamlet on Broadway, Nick Carraway in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” and J. Robert Oppenheimer in a 1980 BBC biographical miniseries about the famous physicist. He played Abraham Lincoln on television and on stage, for which he received a Tony Award nomination.

Among Waterston’s other accolades, he was nominated for an Oscar for playing American journalist Sydney Schanberg in the 1985 film “The Killing Fields.” He has received a Primetime Emmy Award and multiple Emmy nominations, numerous Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award nominations, and two BAFTA award nominations.

“From appearances on ‘Family Guy’ and ‘SNL’ to Hulu’s ‘The Dropout’ and Netflix’s ‘Grace and Frankie,’ he has made a lasting mark on generations of pop culture,” Class of 2024 President Sydney Johnson said in the video message to seniors.

In addition to his accomplished acting career, Waterston has dedicated himself to issues such as climate activism and ocean preservation. He was a longtime board member of Refugees International and, in 2012, received the Goodermote Humanitarian Award from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for “his longtime support of the plight of refugees around the world.”

“Mr. Waterston engages in work that embodies our University’s motto, ‘In the nation’s service and the service of humanity,’” Class Day Committee co-chair Aisha Chebbi said in the video.

Johnson added: “We hope to all exemplify Mr. Waterston’s commitment to service throughout our lives.”

In addition to Johnson and Chebbi, Class Day co-chairs are Brian Li and Julie Levey.

Commencement 2024