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Matt Damon to return to MIT to give commencement speech

Posted at 2:40 PM, Dec 10, 2015

Do you like apples? Well, Matt Damon is returning to MIT this spring. How ‘bout them apples?

The Cambridge, Mass. school announced Wednesday that Damon will give a commencement speech at the 2016 graduation ceremony on June 3.

Damon earned his big break in 1997 by co-writing and starring in “Good Will Hunting.” The movie, in which he portrays a brilliant janitor at MIT, earned him an Oscar for Best Writing.

“Good Will Hunting,” which co-stars the late Robin Williams, won three Academy Awards and was nominated for seven others.

In addition to his success as an actor, MIT noted Damon’s humanitarian work as the reason for his selection.

Per a press release from MIT:

Almost a decade ago, Damon’s passion for finding practical paths to social and environmental justice led him to found the pioneering H2O Africa Foundation and its successor, which helps communities in the developing world gain access to safe drinking water and sanitation. In 2008, he co-founded the Not On Our Watch Project to draw attention to global atrocities and genocides. He has also worked on behalf of ONEXONE, a nonprofit that aims to improve the lives of children worldwide, and the ONE Campaign, which fights poverty and preventable disease, especially in Africa.

“I am thrilled that Mr. Damon will be with us at commencement,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “Through his art, this son of Cambridge has made us think about our world in new ways, and through his service, he has made it a better place.”

“Matt Damon is eclectic — a world-renowned actor, critically acclaimed producer, and charitable humanitarian,” says Anish Punjabi, president of MIT’s Class of 2016. “More importantly, he is an inspiration to MIT students, teaching us that humility knows no bounds, and the world needs more well-rounded leaders who are passionate about improving society through one genuine act of kindness at a time.”

Damon, a Cambridge native, grew up in the area and attended Harvard, dropping out one semester shy of graduation. He was nominated for a Golden Globe on Thursday for best actor in this year’s space thriller “The Martian.”

“I am humbled and thrilled by this invitation,” Damon says. “I feel a deep affinity for MIT having grown up in the neighborhood. It’s quite an honor to be the commencement speaker at a school that I couldn't have gotten into.”

Ben Affleck, co-star, co-writer and fellow Cambridge native, was not invited to speak. It’s not your fault, Ben.

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.