Debra Martin Chase '77
May 27, 2007
Debra Martin Chase, class of 1977, Mount Holyoke is delighted to honor you at the thirtieth anniversary of your graduation. You are one of Hollywood's savviest and most respected producers, and you have used your influence to advance a progressive social agenda both on screen and off.
Yours was not a typical journey to Hollywood acclaim. You graduated from Mount Holyoke Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, and earned your J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1981. You had an impressive legal career and were active in politics throughout the 1980s. Deciding to pursue your interest in the film industry, you joined Columbia Pictures as a member of the Motion Pictures Legal Department in 1989. A year later you became Chairman Frank Price's executive assistant. In 1991 you were named director of creative affairs, and your career in the arts was well underway. From 1992 to 1995 you ran Mundy Lane Entertainment, Denzel Washington's production company. Over the next dozen years, you produced and created numerous works for film and television.
Your productions are notable for both their critical and public acclaim. You have proven that one can have success in the marketplace without compromising artistic integrity or humane values. Your films and television programs reject stereotypes, particularly around race and gender, in favor of characters who think and act for themselves. You yourself provide a striking role model as an African American woman who, through her own talent, intelligence, and resolve, made it big in the predominately white, male American film industry.
You are active in your communities as well, serving on numerous boards, and you have been honored by groups as varied as Girls Inc., Women in Film, the Corporate Counsel Women of Color, the I Have a Dream Foundation, and the National Summit of Black Women Lawyers. To these recognitions we would like to add our own. Debra Martin Chase, class of 1977, it is with great pleasure that I confer upon you your second Mount Holyoke degree, the degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.