U of M commencement speaker Maria Bamford gives two students $5,000 checks

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A graduate of the University of Minnesota’s creative writing program returned to campus with an unforgettable gift for an aspiring actress who earned her diploma.

Some locals may know Maria Bamford from her work on TV and in films. After graduating back in 1993, Bamford returned to campus on May 14 to deliver the commencement address – and a little something extra.

During her speech, Bamford spoke about student debt, something with which she is very familiar; her husband left school 25 years ago with $17,000 in debt. The two finally paid off those bills this past year, which cost them a total with interest of $53,000.

“Does anyone here have a debt to Sallie Mae?” she asked.

It seemed nearly everyone raised their hands. Then when she asked specifically for someone in the theater arts program, Alyse Mone was singled out.

Bamford invited Mone onstage, and then presented her with a check for $5,000.

Mone took to social media to celebrate the $5,000 she got to help pay off her student loans, which amounted to tens of thousands of dollars in her four years at the university.

The student said the gift was an incredible way to start her journey into acting. Her first trip after graduation is to her homecoming in suburban Detroit. From there she hopes to head off to auditions in the television industry.

"I was just in awe, almost. I'm really, really grateful,” Mone said.

Bamford also gave another student a check for $5,000 during her second commencement address, essentially donating the entire amount the university paid for her to speak.