Press release from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television:
Los Angeles, CA – Ron Meyer, Universal Studios President and COO, will be the 2012 Commencement Speaker for this year’s UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s (TFT) commencement ceremony. Recipients of TFT’s 2012 Distinguished Alumni Awards are director and screenwriter Penelope Spheeris for Film and Shirley Jo Finney, the award-winning international director/actor, for Theater, both of whom will receive their awards at the ceremony. This year’s Commencement is dedicated to TFT founding dean and industry legend, Gil Cates. TFT Dean Teri Schwartz will preside over the graduation celebration on June 15 from 4:00p.m. to 6:00p.m. at Dickson CourtNorthon the UCLA campus.
“We are very honored and delighted to have Ron Meyer as our Commencement Speaker this year,” says Dean Schwartz. “Ron is a leader of extraordinary skill and vision. His industry insights, experiences and values should be of enormous inspiration to our graduating students. He is one of the most respected and distinguished executives in the entertainment industry and we feel so fortunate that he will be with us on this very special day.”
Dean Schwartz continues, “Our Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are groundbreaking, artists whose outstanding career accomplishments are a tribute to the very best that is TFT. Moreover, we are very honored to be able to use this important occasion for our students and TFT community to dedicate our commencement ceremony to our beloved founding Dean, Gil Cates, whose vision and extraordinary commitment to entertainment and performing arts education are without equal.”
Meyer will address the audience of graduates, faculty, family, friends and distinguished guests, providing inspiration and vision to the future alumni.
Appointed President and COO of Universal Studios in 1995, Meyer is now the longest serving Studio Chief in Hollywood history. Prior to joining Universal, Meyer was President of CAA, which he co-founded in 1975. He presided over CAA as it became the preeminent organization it is today, representing many of the industry’s top talent and most influential people, and later expanding its range of services to include consulting with leading worldwide corporations. Meyer’s early career was as a television agent with William Morris. His career in entertainment began as a messenger at the Paul Kohner Agency in Los Angeles after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Often referred to as a Rock ‘n Roll anthropologist, Distinguished Alumni Spheeris, is perhaps best known for directing the documentary trilogy The Decline of Western Civilization, the feature film Wayne's World and its Grammy nominated music video for Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Her feature films also include The Beverly Hillbillies and The Little Rascals. For nearly a decade, she wrote for the hit sitcom Roseanne. Spheeris launched her career by producing short subjects for comedian Albert Brooks, many of them being highlights in the first season of Saturday Night Live. Recently Spheeris signed on to direct the teen-comedy High School Sweethearts. Majoring in film, Spheeris holds a BA ’69 and MFA ’73 from TFT.
Distinguished Alumni Finney, MFA class of ’73, is an established television and film director and actor and garnered the International film award for Best Director for her short film Remember Me. She is an alumnus of the American Film Institute, Directors Workshop for Women and is a member of The Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and the Society of Stage Directors. She has been an Artist in Residence at Columbia College in Chicago, and a guest artist and lecturer at UCLA and USC.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block will present Dr. Judith Reichman a commemorative tribute in honor of her late husband, Gil Cates, founding Dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Cates’ legacy to UCLA and the entertainment industry will be remembered throughout Commencement with the Chancellor providing special remarks about Cates’ illustrious career and his lasting influence on TFT/UCLA. As its inaugural dean, Cates transformed an already extraordinary program into a highly sought after world-class school for entertainment and performing arts with outstanding new faculty, innovative programs and unparalleled student and alumni success. While Dean and professor, Cates continued to have a robust connectivity to the entertainment industry through his leadership roles at the DGA, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and through his directing and producing. Gil Cates’ legacy at TFT is incomparable.
TFT commencement ceremony honors approximately 200 students from the departments of theater, film, television and digital media. The school will confer Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees. Doctoral scholars who have completed a PhD program will also be recognized at the event.