Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Producing an honorary degree

Emmy winner Michelle MacLaren returns to Queen’s to receive her Doctor of Laws.

For Hollywood director and producer Michelle MacLaren, receiving the call saying she had been selected to receive an honorary degree from Queen’s was not unlike her first Emmy nomination. The film graduate received her Doctor of Laws degree during the Nov. 17 convocation ceremony.

“I am so incredibly touched, honoured and humbled,” says Dr. MacLaren when asked about receiving an honorary degree. “It’s not something I ever thought I would receive, it never entered my mind. I’m pleased Queen’s respects what I do.”

Michelle MacLaren speaks during convocation on Thursday, Nov. 17.

Dr. MacLaren has been working in the film industry for 30 years and is best known for directing and producing a number of award winning television shows including The X-Files, Law & Order, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Both her Emmy wins came for Breaking Bad in 2013 and 2014.

It’s been 30 years since the two-time Emmy winner has been on the Queen’s campus. Film and media professor Blaine Allan had the honour of escorting Dr. MacLaren around town and she found it to be an emotional experience.

“It was actually surreal, walking around campus,” she says. “We went to the original Film House where I started my education. We took some pictures, touched the wall of the building, it was emotional for me. That’s where I got my start.”

She also had an opportunity to drive by her old house where she lived with six other people and tonight she’s planning to visit the Underground with her nephew who is also studying at Queen’s. Dr. MacLaren waitressed there for three years when it was still called Alfie’s Pub. Her housemates actually attended the convocation ceremony to support her.

When asked about her inspiration, Dr. MacLaren talked about former Queen's professor Peter Morris. “He instilled in me an understanding that the film world is a reflection of what is going on in the outside world. Film reflects the world - past, present and future. To think outside the box, open my eyes and see the world in new ways. That is one of the most important lessons I learned.”

During her convocation address, Dr. MacLaren talked about her successes and failures: “It is possible to be tough, strong and kind. I’m often asked how I can do what I do and still be so nice. I just smile and I say ‘I’m Canadian.’”

To wrap up her speech, Dr. MacLaren encouraged the students to be good people and appreciate those around them.

“Lastly, one of the most important things is to be grateful, especially to those who love and support you… Dare to dream, go make history and be good people along the way.”