The first high school graduates of the Geffen Academy at UCLA got a once-in-a-lifetime surprise today when Oprah Winfrey appeared on screen to deliver the school’s commencement address.

“Coming to Geffen Academy required a leap of faith in the name of excellence,” Winfrey said. “There were no students, there were no classrooms, there was no building to see. The school was just an idea, untested and unknown. But each of you trusted your instinct and your intuition. You listened to that voice; you know that voice — the voice that said, ‘This is an opportunity to be the first, to co-create a culture, to shape your own education, to connect with those who thirst for knowledge who have limitless curiosity and a commitment to service, just like you do.’ You said ‘yes’ to a mission statement predicated on kindness, on compassion, on excellence.”

Highlights from Oprah Winfrey’s commencement address to the Geffen Academy at UCLA’s first graduating class.


The ceremony, which was held at Geffen Academy’s campus in Westwood, marked a major milestone in the history of the school, which was created with a founding gift from David Geffen.

Winfrey congratulated Geffen Academy at UCLA for challenging students’ curiosity while honoring their emotional and physical well-being. Known for her philanthropy, the founder of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa also expressed admiration for the leadership and sense of adventure demonstrated by Geffen Academy’s first students and families.

Launched in the 2017-2018 school year and serving students grades 6-12, Geffen Academy champions innovation and academic depth in a humane environment. Among the school’s signature programs are an embedded wellness curriculum that every student experiences weekly; a 15-minute elective reading period each day; a cash-free campus where all students eat lunch together; and a multidisciplinary program that combines developing ideas with design, engineering, woodworking, craftsmanship, and peer collaboration.

As an affiliate school of the number one public university in the country, Geffen Academy serves the UCLA community in part by offering exceptional educational experiences to the children of university faculty and staff as well as a demographically, socioeconomically and culturally diverse student body from throughout the Greater Los Angeles area.