Emmy Winner Peter Dinklage ’91 Addresses Class of 2012

Jun 01, 2012

More coverage: video, photos.  

By Patrick McArdle, Rutland Herald                                                     

BENNINGTON, VT – Taking the stage at Bennington College’s 77th commencement dinner on Friday, Peter Dinklage, a member of the Class of 1991, showed some of the edgy humor – and weaponry – that has made him famous as Tyrion Lannister on "Game of Thrones."

Holding up a mace, Dinklage thanked the student who gave it to him for helping him put the fear of God into the audience.

"When a Bennington student, 10 minutes before you come up to the podium, hands you a mace that he made, if you don’t bring it to the podium with you, you’ll never be Bennington," he said, earning a round of applause.

Dinklage has been, as Bennington College President Elizabeth Coleman said when introducing him, trending in popularity recently for his role on HBO’s fantasy series "Game of Thrones." Dinklage recently won an Emmy and a Golden Globe and earned the cover of a recent issue of "Rolling Stone."

During his speech, however, Dinklage wondered why he was addressing the 156 members of the Class of 2012 rather than one of the famous writers, teachers and "pioneers of science" who had graduated from Bennington.

As a student at an all-boys Catholic high school in New Jersey, Dinklage said his height and black clothing, including a cape and tights, made him stand out.

"But here at Bennington, I was home and I have to say, it doesn’t get better. Let me clarify. There are not shinier, more important people out there. Your fellow students, your friends, sitting around you, are as good as it gets," he said.

Dinklage told the students they had already taken a major step toward their future by choosing Bennington.

"We are very spoiled here. People always say to me, ‘For such a small school, it seems like there are so many of you.’ I find that really interesting and I kinda think that’s perfect. We can’t help it. We burn very brightly. Please don’t ever stop," he said.

Dinklage explained what it was like for him to go from being a Bennington College student to being a working actor. He spent six years — longer, he pointed out, than he had been a student at Bennington. — working at a menial job he hated before becoming a working actor.

"I’m sorry, it sucks after graduation. It really does. … You just get a bit derailed. But soon something starts to happen. Trust me. A rhythm sets in, just like it did after your first few days here. Just try not to wait until, like me, you’re 29, before you find it," he said.

Students who were about to graduate seemed already optimistic about their future. Corinne Frankenfield, an art history major from Easton, Pa., said she is planning to go to graduate school in fall and will intern at the Smithsonian. Frankenfield said Bennington allowed her to develop her own path.

"That was really what forced me to understand what I needed to do, in order to do what is most meaningful to me," she said.

Hannah McCarthy, of Braintree, Mass., took theater and philosophy at Bennington College and already has a part in a production of "Romeo and Juliet" on Martha’s Vineyard. She came to Bennington because of a book, "Colleges That Change Lives."

"After visiting, I knew this was the one college where I could come and study exactly what I wanted to study," she said.

More Commencement coverage: video, photos.