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Shonda Rhimes

2017 Speaker

SHONDA RHIMES is the prolific writer, executive producer and creator of the hit ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Scandal.”  In addition to creating the “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff series “Private Practice,” Rhimes is the executive producer of the ABC series “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Still Star-Crossed” and “The Catch” as well as the upcoming drama series “For The People” and “Untitled Grey’s Anatomy Spinoff.” For her collective work on her various shows, Rhimes is the recipient of a Golden Globe for Outstanding Television Drama, the Peabody Award, a Television Producer of the Year award by the Producers Guild of America, a Writers Guild Award for Best New Series, a GLAAD Media Award, as well as numerous AFI Awards for Television Program of the Year and an unprecedented number of NAACP Image Awards. 

Rhimes has twice been included in TIME Magazine’s 100 list of the most influential people along with Fortune Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business,” and Glamour Magazine’s “Women of the Year.”  She is a recipient of the Directors Guild of America’s prestigious Diversity Award, Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, The Hollywood Reporter’s Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, the Writers Guild’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Career Achievement and the Producers Guild’s Norman Lear Achievement Award.  She was additionally honored with the Human Rights Council’s Ally for Equality Award, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Eleanor Roosevelt Global Women’s Rights Award and the Champion of Change Award from Planned Parenthood.  Internationally, Ms. Rhimes received the MIPCOM 2016 Personality of the Year Award from MIPCOM as well as the International Emmy Founders Award, for her contributions to the quality of global television production.  Among many other honors, Rhimes is an inductee into the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Rhimes is also involved in non-narrative projects. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Secretary Hillary Clinton asked Rhimes to create a short biopic on the Presidential nominee for the Democratic National Convention. Rhimes interviewed President Obama, President Clinton and Secretary Clinton among others for the piece.  The film was shown on closing night of the DNC and was narrated by Morgan Freeman.  She also worked on a controversial political ad featuring Shonda and her three lead actresses which aired during the all-Shondaland Thursday night programming lineup on ABC.  In addition, she helped orchestrate a cast-oriented series of ads for JJ Abrams’ then-upcoming Star Wars revival.   Currently, Rhimes serves as Creative Director to Dove’s #RealBeauty campaign.  She’s partnered with Pilot Pen to award the G2 Overachievers Grant to enhance the reach of ordinary heroes who give back to their community in impactful ways.  Her course on television writing continues to be a best seller at  Rhimes is expanding her brand with the launch of, a digital storytelling platform that will feature first-person essays, exclusive interviews, reported features, advice, podcasts and videos. kicked-off with its first newsletter in May 2017 and the full site will launch in fall 2017.

In 2016, Rhimes created The Rhimes Family Foundation with a mission to support arts, education, and activism with a focus on promoting inclusion, equality and tolerance.  The foundation proudly funded the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Rhimes Visual Arts Gallery as well as supports the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Debbie Allen Dance Academy and The IAMA Theater Company.  Rhimes also serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations – including Humanitas, the Writers Guild Foundation, Beyond 12 and Planned Parenthood. In addition, Rhimes is a member of the Television Academy Executive Committee.  In 2013, Rhimes was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a Kennedy Center trustee. 

Rhimes released her first book “Year of Yes” from Simon & Schuster in November 2015. The book, which candidly chronicles her moving and humorous attempts to come out of her shell by saying “yes” to everything that scares her, was an instant New York Times best-seller.  In 2016, she followed up with a companion piece, “The Year of Yes Journal.”

Rhimes holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MFA from the USC School of Cinema-Television.  She’s also received an honorary PhD from both institutions.  In 2014, she was honored to deliver the Dartmouth commencement address.

The child of educators, Rhimes blames her parents for her rampant addiction to books. The youngest of six, she was born and raised outside of Chicago, IL, and now resides in Los Angeles with her three daughters.