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BUILD Speaker Series: "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" Cast

Actor Melissa McCarthy participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' at AOL Studios on Oct. 16 in New York.

CARBONDALE — Melissa McCarthy, a world-famous actress with local roots, could receive an honorary Southern Illinois University Carbondale Doctor of Performing Arts degree next May, according to documents filed on the SIU board of trustees website.

McCarthy grew up in northern Illinois, and attended SIU Carbondale for two years before moving to New York City, where she began her acting career.

She made her name with roles on the television show "Gilmore Girls" and in the feature-length comedy "Bridesmaids." McCarthy is married to Ben Falcone, a Carbondale native, and the pair have featured Southern Illinois prominently in their work, most notably the comedy “Tammy,” starring McCarthy and Susan Sarandon, whose opening scenes are set in Murphysboro.

McCarthy was selected for the honor by an SIUC committee, then approved by SIU System President J. Kevin Dorsey. If her nomination is approved Thursday by the board of trustees, it will allow the university to reach out to McCarthy and invite her to campus to accept the award, explained Rae Goldsmith, the SIU Carbondale spokeswoman.

Honorary degrees at SIUC are “reserved for outstanding scholarly contributors and for persons of considerable renown in any field of activity,” according to a memo issued by the Degree and Distinguished Service Award Committee, in August.

An honorary degree should be awarded “only to those persons who have uniquely contributed to human well‐being or whose accomplishments have resulted in marked benefit to society,” the memo said.

If the honor is approved, SIUC would bestow the degree at the summer 2019 commencement ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, May 11.

Movie stills from new movie "Tammy"

Susan Sarandon as Pearl (left) and Melissa McCarthy as Tammy, in the movie 'Tammy'.

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Gabriel Neely-Streit is a reporter for The Southern covering higher education.

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