Campus & Community

J.K. Rowling to speak at Commencement

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J.K. Rowling, author of the world-renowned “Harry Potter” novels, will be the principal speaker during the Afternoon Exercises of Harvard University’s 357th Commencement on June 5, 2008.

“Perhaps no one in our time has done more than J.K. Rowling to inspire young people to experience the excitement and the sheer joy of reading,” said President Drew Faust. “Her tales of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and their Hogwarts adventures have cast a spell on millions of readers around the world. Harvard isn’t exactly Hogwarts, but I’m sure that her visit with us this June will be a moment of magic for J.K. Rowling’s many admirers across the University.”

“It will be an honor and a thrill to welcome J.K. Rowling to Harvard,” said Jonathan Byrnes, president of the Harvard Alumni Association. “There are countless Harry Potter devotees throughout the Harvard family, and we look forward to warmly welcoming one of the world’s best-read authors to our Commencement festivities.”

Rowling’s seven “Harry Potter” novels, published from 1997 to 2007, are among the most popular and beloved books in history. Countless readers have eagerly awaited each new volume chronicling Harry’s life as a young, orphaned wizard possessed of extraordinary powers and confronted by formidable challenges as he and his friends progress through the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Global sales of the “Harry Potter” books have reportedly surpassed 375 million copies. The titles have been translated into more than 65 languages and are available in more than 200 countries. The most recent volumes rank among the fastest-selling books of all time, and each of the seven titles has risen to the top of The New York Times best-seller list. When the final novel in the series was published last July, Harvard Square was the site of a night-long festival, and thousands of people, many in their finest wizard costumes, flocked to Harvard Yard to hear a concert by Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, and the Hungarian Horntails.

Passionate about writing since she was 6 years old, Rowling completed the first “Harry Potter” manuscript while struggling to make ends meet as a language teacher and single mother. Her novel was rejected by many publishers before being accepted for publication in 1996. She and her books have since been internationally recognized with numerous honors, and the books have given rise to a highly popular movie series. A devoted philanthropist, Rowling has special interest in efforts to combat poverty, to support multiple sclerosis research, and to aid children and one-parent families. Born in Yate, England, near Bristol, she now lives in Scotland with her husband, Neil Murray, and their three children.