Award-winning songwriter Robert Lopez ’97 to speak at Class Day
Robert Lopez ’97 — the Emmy-, Grammy-, Oscar-, and Tony-winning songwriter behind Disney’s “Frozen,” Pixar’s “Coco,” and the Broadway musicals “Avenue Q” and “Book of Mormon” — will be the 2021 Class Day speaker, Yale announced March 26.
Lopez’s address to the graduating Yale College class, scheduled for Sunday, May 23, will be delivered virtually and will premiere on the Yale 2021 website, enabling graduates’ families as well as those members of the Class of 2021 who are unable to be on campus for Class Day to experience the event simultaneously.
“I am so excited to get to be this year’s Class Day speaker,” Lopez said in a video message to the graduating students. He described his years at Yale as “one of the highlights of my life” and promised a Class Day speech that will include memories from campus, reflections on the importance of collaboration and friendship, and “even a song or two.”
As an undergraduate, Lopez was a resident of Jonathan Edwards College and majored in English. Active in music and musical theater, he wrote three musicals and was a member of the Spizzwinks a cappella group. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he joined the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, where he met future collaborators Jeff Marx, with whom he co-created the multiple-Tony Award-winning “Avenue Q,” and Kristen Anderson — now Kristen Anderson-Lopez, his wife and co-writer. The couple’s partnership produced the songs from “Frozen” (leading to Oscar and Grammy wins), “Frozen II” (earning Oscar and Grammy nominations), “Remember Me” from “Coco” (which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song), and the songs for Marvel’s “WandaVision.” Their original musical “Up Here” was featured at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 2015.
Lopez is also the co-creator — with Matt Stone and Trey Parker of “South Park” fame — of “The Book of Mormon,” which debuted in 2011 and won nine Tony Awards. He shared two Emmy Awards for his music on Nickelodeon’s “The Wonder Pets,” as well as Emmy nominations for songs in “Scrubs,” the 87th Academy Awards ceremony, and the mockumentary “The Comedians.” His work has been featured on the television shows “South Park,” “The Simpsons,” and “Phineas and Ferb.”
Lopez, who has been honored with Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League, Lucile Lortel, Frederick Loewe, and Edward Kleban awards, is one of only 15 artists to win all four major entertainment industry awards — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. He was also the youngest to do so, at age 39 in 2014, and the first to win all four a second time.
He and Anderson-Lopez live in Brooklyn, New York, with their two daughters.
Class Day 2021 is being organized under the creative direction of a committee of five Yale College seniors: Stanley Lam ’21 of Silliman College, Jin Li ’21 of Ezra Stiles, Steven Orientale ’21 of Jonathan Edwards, Akhil Rajan ’21 of Branford, and Skye Ward ’21 of Pauli Murray.
“The Class Day Committee had the chance to meet with Mr. Lopez and hear about his time as a student here,” the committee wrote. “Since he graduated from Yale, he’s been an amazing ambassador for the artistic talents and activities that are such a big part of the Yale experience. We are excited that he’ll deliver a unique and creative speech that our class will remember for years to come.”
Class Day dates to the 19th century, when members of the graduating class gathered in a circle on Old Campus to share memories of their time at Yale. Today, the ceremony takes place the day before Commencement. It includes speeches and reflections by members of the class, as well as many longstanding Yale College traditions. Previous Class Day speakers have included the writer Chimamanda Adichie ’08 M.A.; gene therapy researcher Jean Bennett ’76; former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ’73 J.D.; the Chicago Cubs’ former president of baseball operations Theo Epstein ’95; and television journalist Fareed Zakaria ’86.