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That time Carrie Fisher crashed a dinner for Stephen Hawking at Harvard

Carrie Fisher after accepting the Humanist Hub’s Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism earlier this year.
Carrie Fisher after accepting the Humanist Hub’s Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism earlier this year.David Braz
Humanist Hub program director Sarah Chandonnet with Carrie Fisher in April.
Humanist Hub program director Sarah Chandonnet with Carrie Fisher in April.handout

Actress-writer Carrie Fisher, who died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack during a flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday, visited Harvard in April to accept the Humanist Hub’s Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. The award honors people in popular culture who showcase values of Humanism, including compassion and creativity. Past winners include director Joss Whedon and writer Salman Rushdie.

Shortly after Fisher’s death was reported, Humanist Hub program director Sarah Chandonnet recalled the visit and told a story about the star’s local appearance.

Chandonnet said that when Fisher arrived to speak at the event, which was held at the Memorial Church, her Uber driver accidentally dropped her across the street, where a dinner was being held for physicist Stephen Hawking, who was also in town. At first, dinner guests thought Fisher — who’d brought her dog, Gary, to the event — might be a crasher, but then they began to recognize her. Security called Chandonnet, who ran across the street to find her. Fisher wound up being late for the Humanist event because she and Hawking wanted to spend time together. Apparently, Chandonnet said, they were big fans of each other.

“Our event had already started,” Chandonnet remembered. “We got delayed because the two of them wanted to hang out. We finally urged her to leave. I think they had breakfast the next day.”

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Chandonnet said she planned the local event with Fisher for months, and that the actress was thoughtful, personable, and interested in others.

“When I had to take a phone call with her, she was asking questions about my life. She wanted to know about me,” Chandonnet said.

She also said that Fisher joked about her love life. “She said, ‘Do you know any young single professors? This really feels like a place to meet my next husband.’ ”

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Chandonnet said Fisher had no problem being associated with her most famous character.

“Of course when she gets off the phone with me, she says, ‘May the Force be with you.’ ”