Commencement Speaker Edward Asner
One of the most honored actors in the history of television, Edward Asner is perhaps best known for his comedic and dramatic crossover as the gruff but soft-hearted journalist Lou Grant, the role he originated on the landmark TV newsroom comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show and continued in the drama series Lou Grant, which earned him five Emmys and three Golden Globe Awards. Asner received two more Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for his work in the blockbuster 1970s miniseries Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man. More recently, he played the role of Santa Claus in the box office hit Elf, with Will Ferrell and James Caan, and he supplied the voice of Carl Fredricksen in Pixar's 2009 box office hit Up, which won Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score-Motion Picture at the 67th Annual Golden Globe® Awards, as well as receiving The Outstanding Animated Film Award at the 82nd Academy Awards.
Asner has won more Emmy Awards for performing than any other male actor. He has more than 100 television credits, which include starring roles in the series Off the Rack, The Bronx Zoo, and Thunder Alley. His numerous guest appearances include roles in Curb Your Enthusiasm, ER, Arliss, and The Practice, and a recurring role on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Besides commercials and numerous books on tape, he has lent his distinctive voice to popular cartoon shows such as The Simpsons, Spiderman, and Boondocks. Asner has done several Hallmark movies and was nominated for an Emmy for The Christmas Card, in addition to his Emmy-nominated guest appearance on CSI/NY. Most recently, Asner completed a guest star role on the TBS primetime series Men At Work and on the CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams and starred opposite Markie Post in the Lifetime telefilm Christmas On The Bayou.
His dozens of motion pictures include They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, Fort Apache the Bronx, and JFK, along with Elf. Among his most recent film work is his starring role opposite Joseph Fiennes and Tom Cavanagh in the Disney feature The Games Maker, to be released later this year. He served as national president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for two terms and was inducted into the TV Academy Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2000, SAG presented him with the Ralph Morgan Award, given periodically for distinguished service to the organization’s Hollywood membership. In 2002, he was again honored by SAG for his career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment as the 38th recipient of the prestigious Life Achievement Award, presented annually to an actor who fosters the highest ideals of the profession.
Also an accomplished stage actor, Asner has several New York City theater credits, including Ivanov, The Tempest, Face of a Hero, King Henry V, and Born Yesterday. He returned to Broadway in 2013, starring in the comedy drama Grace opposite Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, and Kate Arrington, and for nearly four years he has been touring the country as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the critically acclaimed one-man show FDR.
In addition to his professional versatility, Asner has consistently served and committed himself to the rights of the working performer, in addition to advocating for human rights, world peace, environmental preservation, and political freedom. A passionate and informed spokesperson for the causes he supports, Asner is a frequent speaker on labor issues and a particular ally for the acting industry's older artists. Among the many honors he has received throughout his career include the Anne Frank Human Rights Award, The Eugene Debs Award, Organized Labor Publications Humanitarian Award, ACLU's Worker's Right's Committee Award, and the National Emergency Civil Liberties Award.
Read Edward Asner's Undergraduate Commencement speech on May 16, 2014.