"Harry Potter" Author to Speak at Commencement

University president Drew Gilpin Faust said: "Perhaps no one in our time has done more than J.K. Rowling to inspire young people to experience the excitement and the sheer joy of reading. Global sales of Rowling's seven novels...

This year's Commencement speaker will be J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter book series, the University announced today.

In the news release, University president Drew Gilpin Faust said: "Perhaps no one in our time has done more than J.K. Rowling to inspire young people to experience the excitement and the sheer joy of reading."

Global sales of Rowling's seven novels, published from 1997 to 2007, have reportedly surpassed 375 million copies. The books have been translated into more than 65 languages and are available in more than 200 countries; five of them have become feature films.

The news release noted that when Rowling wrote the first novel in the series, she was "struggling to make ends meet as a language teacher and single mother," and said the manuscript was initially rejected by several publishers. It called the British author "a devoted philanthropist" with a "special interest in efforts to combat poverty, to support multiple sclerosis research, and to aid children and one-parent families."

She will speak at the June 5 afternoon exercises, organized by the Harvard Alumni Association, as part of the University's 357th Commencement celebration.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was last year's Commencement speaker. Other recent speakers have included former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo; Kofi Annan, then secretary-general of the United Nations; Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve; journalist Jim Lehrer; and actor John Lithgow '67. Rowling will be the first female Commencement speaker since 1998.

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