Depending on your age, the name Tina Fey conjures images of a delightfully snarky Sarah Palin impression, an enviable partnership with fellow feminist comedic genius Amy Poehler, or perhaps the hijinks-prone Liz Lemon from NBC’s 30 Rock. Regardless of the era, Fey has remained synonymous with wit and a formidable work ethic, both of which have led her to the top in male-dominated Hollywood.
Before setting the tone for much of the 21st century’s comedy, Fey obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama from the University of Virginia (UVA). She was awarded the Pettway Prize at UVA for her academic achievements in acting and playwriting. After graduating, she secured a spot with The Second City, Chicago’s award-winning improvisational comedy troupe. It was there she met Amy Poehler, and their professional paths would cross many more times over the course of their careers, from their work together at Saturday Night Live to myriad movies later.
Over the years, Fey has garnered a reputation for remaining grounded and down-to-earth, despite enjoying tremendous success as both a writer and actor. Every so often, she even pops back up in headlines related to her Charlottesville alma mater. In 2014, she returned to UVA as the inaugural speaker for its President’s Speaker Series for the Arts event, delivering a passionate yet humorous address about always putting forward your best work, whether its for a school play or some “dumb TV show.”
A few years later in 2017, Dr. Anna Clay’s “Women in Television” class got a happy surprise when Fey tuned in to video chat with them as their guest alumna speaker. That same year, Fey appeared to a larger audience addressing issues on the UVA campus. She showed up on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update to talk about the Nazis and white nationalists who had recently descended upon the Charlottesville campus. Proudly wearing school colors, she used her signature acerbic wit to verbally eviscerate the racist forces blemishing her university and country.
Every school hopes to produce the cream of the crop in at least a few of their specialty fields, but not all are lucky enough to receive the repeat involvement of such a top-notch alumna. Whether it is direct interaction with students in class, or using her loyalty to her school as a platform through which to speak out about social issues on national TV, Fey has found unique ways to maintain her strong connections to the University of Virginia.