Patricia Clarkson, a 1982 alumna of Fordham College at Lincoln Center and winner of numerous prestigious honors for acting, has established a scholarship at Fordham, seeking to help seniors in the theatre program who may be facing financial hurdles—just as she did.

Throughout her career, Clarkson has sought out diverse and challenging roles and won wide acclaim for her performances on stage and screen. In an interview, she noted her parents’ sacrifices for her education, as well as her part-time work at a diner as a student. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to give someone just a little bit of help, a little bit of extra, because that’s what I needed when I was there,’” she said. “It would’ve been easier for me. I’m thrilled to be doing this, and I’m excited.”

Clarkson said she received mentoring and support at Fordham that were crucial to her career. “My heart is always with Fordham,” she said. “I’m proud of my alma mater, and I’m proud to help out in the little way I can.”

Patricia Clarkson
Patricia Clarkson, photographed in 2018 by Maarten de Boer during her promotion of Sharp Objects, the HBO miniseries in which she gave a Golden Globe-winning performance

An engaged alumna, she regularly returns to campus to speak with students in the theatre program. Clarkson was inducted into Fordham’s Hall of Honor in 2016 and, in 2018, received an honorary doctorate from the University.

“Patricia Clarkson embodies the best of Fordham,” said Tania Tetlow, president of Fordham University. “Her determination and blazing talent make us so very proud. She is our ambassador, telling everyone how much her Fordham education matters to her. Best of all, she wants to pass that gift forward to other students, both with her generous gift and in the time she gives them every year on campus.”

May Adrales, director of the Fordham Theatre program, said Clarkson is “an exemplar of Fordham Theatre education, a consummate actor who radiates curiosity and vibrancy.”

The scholarship will go to students who possess Clarkson’s same fervor and fortitude in the pursuit of acting, as well as demonstrated potential, she said. “We are grateful for her support and hope to honor her immense talent and extraordinary body of work.”

Diverse and Compelling Performances

A New Orleans native, Clarkson attended Louisiana State University before transferring to Fordham as a junior. After earning her bachelor’s degree in theatre, she earned an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama. Clarkson won Emmy Awards in 2002 and 2006 for her portrayal of the free-spirited Aunt Sarah on the HBO drama series Six Feet Under, and in 2022 earned a third Emmy for her role in the British comedy series State of the Union.

In 2019, Clarkson won a Golden Globe for her performance in the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, in which she plays the matriarch of a troubled family of three daughters. Rather than portraying her character as “a one-note monster,” Variety noted, “Clarkson ensured there were complicated layers to peel back not only with every episode but every scene.”

In 2003, she was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her portrayal of a dying mother confronting her anger with her estranged daughter in Pieces of April. Her performance in The Elephant Man on Broadway earned her a best-actress Tony nomination in 2015.

Clarkson has spoken out on behalf of causes including environmental protection, LGBTQ rights, and giving women more opportunities in theatre and film. In the new movie Monica, released in May, she plays an ailing woman who is unknowingly being cared for by the transgender daughter she had expelled from her home many years before.

Scholarship gifts advance Cura Personalis | For Every Fordham Student, the University’s $350 million campaign to enhance the entire Fordham student experience. Learn more about the campaign and make a gift.


Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].