The occa­sion mat­tered not. When Maya Angelou spoke, her entire audi­ence paid attention.

When the leg­endary poet, civil rights activist, and edu­cator made what would be her final visit to North­eastern in 2010, she was well into her 80s. But her age did nothing to quell the mes­sage she deliv­ered at Blackman Audi­to­rium that night, says Brandon Isaacson, DMSB’14, who attended the event.

I wanted to take the oppor­tu­nity to behold her pres­ence,” Isaacson recalls. “I was taken by her unpre­ten­tious zest for life. I antic­i­pated someone who’d be more formal, but actu­ally she was simple yet effec­tive with her lan­guage, whether reading poetry or just speaking to the crowd.”

It’s that pas­sion for life that the North­eastern com­mu­nity and the world remem­bered on Wednesday after it was learned that Angelou died at her home in North Car­olina at the age of 86.

Her words, both written and spoken, inspired mil­lions. Whether people knew her from her sev­eral books of poetry, her appear­ances on Sesame Street, her inau­gu­ra­tion poem for Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton in 1993, or her Twitter feed, Angelou’s global pop­u­larity knew no bounds.

She received numerous awards and acco­lades for her writing, as well as her influ­ence on Amer­ican cul­ture. She was given the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Freedom in 2011, she won a Grammy in 1995, and was nom­i­nated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1972.

Her rela­tion­ship with North­eastern dates back sev­eral decades. She has spoken at freshman con­vo­ca­tion, and in 1992 she was invited to address grad­u­ating seniors at com­mence­ment, where she received an hon­orary doctor of fine arts.

Thir­teen years later Angelou returned to campus for a lec­ture, an event that sold out in less than 24 hours. Before her talk, Angelou said she admired North­eastern for of its diverse pool of stu­dents, noting that, “They just seem to cast a wide net.”

She encour­aged the capacity crowd that night to show courage because “without courage you cannot prac­tice any other virtue.”

Maya Angelou, speaking on Northeastern's campus in 1986.

Maya Angelou, speaking on Northeastern’s campus in 1986.

Others in the North­eastern com­mu­nity have had more per­sonal expe­ri­ences with Angelou.

Ray Greene, an adjunct voice lec­turer in the Col­lege of Arts, Media, and Design, got the oppor­tu­nity of a life­time a few years ago when he was hand­picked by Angelou to sing a col­lec­tion of inspi­ra­tional hymns a cap­pella style at the Boston Opera House before she was slated to speak there.

It’s easily one of the high­lights of my musical career,” Greene said Wednesday. “It was unbe­liev­able. She is one of the pre­mier poets and writers of my life­time for sure.”

Prior to going on stage, Greene had the chance to meet Angelou, telling her how much he respected and admired her work. “I am a big fan of hers,” he said.

While pri­marily known for her poetry, Angelou also wrote seven auto­bi­ogra­phies including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which covers the first 17 years of her life and brought her inter­na­tional recognition.

Kim­berly Juanita Brown, an assis­tant pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Eng­lish whose research focuses on 20th-​​century African Amer­ican lit­er­a­ture, said she teaches I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in her classes because of its pow­erful human voice.

I would say in gen­eral the memoir is trau­matic, but you do come away from that text believing in the power of the human voice,” she said. “There is a sense of hope in the memoir.”