In Hollywood, it can take a lifetime to cultivate a legend. For over 40 years, Meryl Streep has captivated audiences with her myriad of acclaimed performances on the silver screen, earning accolades, breaking records, and solidifying her status as one of the greatest actors in the history of cinema. From landmark, award-winning performances early in her career, notably her roles in Kramer vs Kramer (1979) and Sophie’s Choice (1982), to her record-setting 21 Academy Award nominations, Streep is well-recognized as a generational talent.
These days, Streep’s exceptional film career has made her a household name, but her passion for the craft started on the stage, from her New Jersey high school to her undergraduate studies at Vassar College. However, it was at the Yale School of Drama where she was able to cobble together multiple techniques en route to discovering her own approach to acting.
In 1975, she received her Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale, and was bestowed an honorary doctorate several years later, making her one of an esteemed group of alumni that includes lauded performers like Paul Giamatti and Frances McDormand. Though she is a widely admired public figure, Streep has long maintained a great degree of private discretion, but throughout her career she has clandestinely served as a benefactor to a number of charitable causes, especially regarding sustaining the arts.
Along with her husband, sculptor Don Gummer, Streep quietly founded the Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts in the early ‘80s, through which the couple has made generous contributions to a multitude of organizations. Through the Foundation, she has supported performing arts organizations like the New York Shakespeare Festival, New York’s Public Theater, and institutions such as the Butler Museum of American Art and the Museum of Fine Art, Boston.
Her contributions to supporting academic arts programs and higher education accessibility are also notable, providing support to both Yale’s School of Drama and School of Art in addition to her undergraduate alma mater Vassar College. She has also shown support for Upward Bound, a program that provides college prep courses and mentorship to low-income students, especially those facing impediments to pursuing a postsecondary education.
Through her public reflections and private philanthropy, Streep has made apparent the impact of her own higher learning experience at Yale School of Drama and the Yale Repertory Theatre. It is an institution, after all, that has produced some of the premier dramatists and thespians of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, including Streep’s classmates like Sigourney Weaver and Christopher Durang.
Through an unbiased lens, Streep is clearly one of Yale’s most successful and endearing alumni. In any given year, the actress is likely to deliver another acclaimed performance, but it is just as probable that she is quietly giving back to the communities she holds dear. For as many accolades as she may earn, Meryl Streep seems determined to ensure the same future awaits the next generation of artists.