Five Auburn University graduates, all highly accomplished in their fields, have been selected to receive the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Awards and Young Alumni Achievement Award which is the highest honor given by the Auburn Alumni Association.
Among the recipients is Octavia Lenora Spencer, a 1994 graduate who grew up just 20 minutes outside of Tallassee in Waugh. Spencer is an award-winning actress, author and producer. She earned a degree in English from Auburn in 1994 and was selected as an Auburn Alumni Association Young Alumni Award recipient in 2012.
She made her film debut in “A Time to Kill” in 1996 but her breakthrough came in 2011 when she starred as Minny Jackson in the period film “The Help.” Spencer received Best Supporting Actress honors from the Academy Awards (Oscars), Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the British Academy of Film and Theatre Arts and the Critics' Choice Movie Award.
In 2017, her performance as mathematician Dorothy Vaughan in the drama “Hidden Figures” received Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Academy Awards, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild. She had a critically acclaimed performance in the 2013 drama “Fruitvale Station” for which she received the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Recently, Spencer has received acclaim for her work in the films “Get on Up,” “Black or White,” “Smashed,” “Snowpiercer,” “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” and “Zootopia.” On television, she has appeared in episodes of “ER,” “NYPD Blue,” “Medium,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Dharma & Greg” and “Ugly Betty.”
Since 2013, Spencer has published two children's books that tell the crime-busting stories of three multicultural friends — a white girl, a Latino boy and an African-American boy. Spencer cemented her standing as one of Hollywood's premier talents with her performance in the 2017 fantasy drama “The Shape of Water,” earning Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress. In January 2018, it was announced Spencer would star in a dramatic thriller titled “Are You Sleeping.”
She is a lifetime member of the Auburn Alumni Association.
Other 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients are William E. Barrick (Class of 1968), Jere Locke Beasley Sr. (Class of 1959), Joe Wallace Forehand Jr. (Class of 1971) and Octavia Lenora Spencer (Class of 1994). The young alumni recipient is Dion Marlene Aviki (Class of 2004).
The recipients will be honored at a dinner and ceremony Feb. 29 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.