Best-selling author Terry McMillan to speak at SC State’s Spring Commencement Ceremony

Friday, April 24, 2009

Terry McMillianThis year’s Spring Commencement Ceremony will be held on Friday, May 8, 2009 at 7 p.m. in the Oliver C. Dawson Stadium on the campus of SC State. Nearly 500 graduates are expected to receive degrees.


The keynote address will be given by international best-selling author, Terry McMillan.


“We are very excited that Terry McMillan will serve as our 2009 spring commencement speaker,” said Dr. George E. Cooper, president. “As evidenced by her work, she will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience during her address to the 2009 class. We are looking forward to her presence and the enthusiasm she will bring to our commencement Convocation,” continued Dr Cooper.


Terry McMillan was introduced to literature while shelving books at the library. Stung by James Baldwin’s spotlight eyes, she remembers this milestone moment as the one that introduced her to the possibility that black folks wrote books too.


Since her breakout novel “Waiting to Exhale” surged onto The New York Times bestseller list, critics and readers alike have been captivated by her irreverent, often-hilarious take on the issues faced by contemporary African-American women. With several of her bestsellers, including Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Disappearing Acts made into hit movies, McMillian has made her mark on both the literary world and in Hollywood.

McMillan began her career in fiction with the New Renaissance Writers’ Guild. As a single mother, she started her days before dawn, writing as much as she could before it was time to get the baby ready and take the train to work. She edited her morning’s work on the subway and rewrote during her lunch break, editing again on the ride home.

She eventually expanded her short story, Mama into her first breakout novel, winning the Doubleday New Voices in Fiction Award in 1986 and an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 1987. Mama initially followed standard practice, a short print run with little or no book tour budget. McMillan put her data entry and entertainment industry skills to work, contacting every black college and bookstore in the country, and assembled her own nationwide book tour that prompted the printing of additional books before the first copy hit stores.

Her second novel, Disappearing Acts, received critical acclaim, selling more than two million copies after its release in 1989, Wesley Snipes and Sanaa Lathan appeared in Disappearing Acts to HBO. McMillan next wrote A Day Late and a Dollar Short which also became a New York Times bestseller.

McMillan wrote Waiting to Exhale during her tenure as a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. No one could predict how it would change publishing and film. The hardcover release spent more than 38 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Forest Whitaker brought the book to great success on the big screen, winning seven Grammy Awards and an MTV Movie Award.

In 1995, McMillan’s Jamaican vacation inspired her novel, How Stella Got Her Groove Back. A departure from her prior work, the stream-of-consciousness fantasy was completed in 30 days. Stella was met with critical acclaim, debuting at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list, where it remained for weeks. In 1999, McMillan co-wrote the screenplay for the film which appeared on the big screen to sold-out audiences.

In 2002, McMillan won an NAACP Image Award and an Essence Award. She released her first non-fiction effort in 2006 under the title, It’s Okay if You’re Clueless, and 23 More Tips for the College Bound. Her most recent work of fiction is The Interruption of Everything. McMillan is currently at work on her next book and is also working on a signature household line.


For more information on SC State’s Spring Commencement 2009, contact Erica S. Prioleau, director of University Relations and Marketing at (803) 533-3617 or esprioleau@scsu.edu.