Teri Schwartz, dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, has announced that ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey has been named the 2016 commencement speaker. Dean Schwartz will preside over the event to be held on Friday, June 10 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at UCLA's Royce Hall.

Dungey is President of ABC Entertainment where she oversees all development, programming, marketing and scheduling operations for the ABC Television Network. She most recently served as executive vice president, Drama Development, Movies & Miniseries, ABC Entertainment Group. Dungey has been instrumental in the development and success of such hits as American Crime, How to Get Away with Murder, Once Upon a Time, Quantico and Scandal. She joined ABC Studios in 2004 as vice president, drama development and was responsible for the development and acquisition of drama programming. Her slate of programming included the award-winning and critically acclaimed ABC show Private Practice, CBS's long-running drama Criminal Minds, the CW's Reaper and Lifetime's highest-rated series, Army Wives. Dungey graduated magna cum laude from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and is a founding member of the Step Up Women's Network, a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to strengthening community resources for women and girls.

"We could not be more honored to have Channing Dungey as our 2016 Commencement Speaker," said Schwartz. "Channing exemplifies the very best of our UCLA School of Theater Film and Television, as well as the entertainment industry at large. She is a groundbreaking, visionary leader whose life and work are in great harmony with our vision for the power of story to not only entertain, but to enlighten, engage and inspire change for a better world. Channing will greatly inspire and galvanize our graduates on this very special occasion as they embark on this next exciting chapter in their lives."

Tony Award winning screenwriter and dramatist Robert L. Freedman (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), has been named the Distinguished Alumnus in Theater, and filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights), is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award in Film, Television and Digital Media.

"Each year at commencement we honor our remarkable alumni who have gone on to accomplish great work in their respective fields," says Schwartz. "We choose to honor those whose lives have been exemplary not only for their award-winning work, but also for their generous commitment to making the world a better place through their service and other notable activities over the course of their careers. In Robert L. Freedman and Gina Prince-Bythewood, we have two extraordinary alumnae who have done just that, and more. It is a privilege to honor them with the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award for their outstanding artistry and service in Theater and Film/Television/Digital Media, respectively."

Robert L. Freedman, best known for his Tony-winning book and lyrics for A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, received his B.A. in Theater Arts from the UCLA College of Fine Arts in 1979. (The theater concentration is now within the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.)  For his television work, Freedman won the Writers Guild Award for HBO's A Deadly Secret, a drama about teenage suicide, and was nominated for an Emmy Award and a Writers Guild Award for the miniseries Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.  His other teleplays include Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella; What Makes a Family, a Humanitas Prize finalist about gay adoption; The Pastor's Wife, about spousal abuse; What Love Sees, about a blind couple raising a family; the true-crime dramas Honor Thy Mother, Murder in the Hamptons, Woman With a Past, and In the Best of Families (aka Bitter Blood), a miniseries about the stigma of mental illness. Freedman has an M.F.A. in dramatic writing and musical theatre from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and was recently honored with the Tisch Big Apple Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Theatrical Arts.

Gina Prince-Bythewood received her B.A in Motion Picture and Television at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 1991. Upon her graduation, she was hired as a writer on the hit NBC sitcom A Different World. She continued to write and produce for network television series such as the WB's Felicity, Fox's South Central and NBC's Sweet Justice before making the transition to directing. She wrote and directed the widely acclaimed feature film Love & Basketball, which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and earned her an Independent Spirit Award and a Humanitas Prize. In 2008, she wrote and directed the celebrated adaptation of the best-selling novel The Secret Life of Bees. The film won two People's Choice Awards and two NAACP Image Awards. Her third feature, Beyond the Lights, was released in 2014 and garnered an Oscar nomination for best song. Along with her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood, Prince-Bythewood is currently writing, directing and producing Shots Fired, a 10-hour special event series for Fox, which will air in Spring 2017. She is also directing, and with author Roxane Gay, co-writing the adaptation of the searing novel An Untamed State for Fox Searchlight. Prince-Bythewood funds a scholarship for African American students enrolled in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television's film program.

Posted: May 24, 2016