Purchase College Prof. David Grill ’86 Played Role in Michelle Obama’s Oscar Appearance

michelle obama

Purchase College alum David Grill ’86, who is also assistant professor of theater design/technology, recently served as lighting director for Michelle Obama’s Best Picture award sequence during the Academy Awards. This presentation was the climatic moment of the Oscars—and represents an apex of achievement in the field of lighting design.

The invitation to Washington to light the First Lady was “top secret,” according to Grill, since her presentation was an Oscar-first and a dramatic surprise to the worldwide audience. Grill designed the lighting for the remote presentation in the Diplomatic Reception Room of The White House. “The First Lady and her staff were wonderful to work with and it was tremendous honor to be part of history in such a historic venue,” says Grill.

Grill is an Emmy Award-winner with extensive experience in lighting design and direction for international events, dance, architecture, television, and corporate theater. His credits encompass multiple Super Bowl half-time shows, including this year’s Beyoncé performance, as well as the Pan American Games and the Olympic Winter Games.

“Dave exemplifies what distinguishes Purchase College: our faculty of top-tier working professionals who bring their firsthand knowledge and unsurpassed expertise to our students,” says Greg Taylor, Director of the Conservatory of Theatre Arts. “We are proud that Dave has received this global validation of his talent.”

Grill earned his BFA in theatre design here in 1986. “My education at Purchase College has given me a career I truly love,” he reflects. “It is a tribute to Purchase College that they afford me the opportunity, as a working professional, to bring my knowledge back and impart it to the next generation of students who share my passion for lighting design and the arts.”

He has taught at Purchase College since 1998 and is the co-coordinator of the design/technology program.

Photo: Purchase College Professor David Grill was honored by serving as the lighting director for First Lady Michelle Obama, as she presented the Academy Award for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. Photo provided by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.