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University of North Alabama
Office of University Relations

William M. Jarnigan, Director
Tel: 256-765-4225
Fax: 256-765-4812

December 20, 1999

For release: Immediately

FLORENCE, Ala. - Actor Dr. Ernest Borgnine, who was the featured artist at the 1999 George Lindsey/University of North Alabama Television & Film Festival in April, returned to campus over the past weekend as the commencement speaker and was awarded an honorary doctor’s degree.

Borgnine told the 365 graduates and a standing room-only audience of family and friends that the current time in history is one of many paradoxes.

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment. It is a time when technology can bring this message to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete,” he noted.

“Life is what you make it, what you face up to. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of anything,” he said. Quoting from Hamlet, in which he played, Borgnine said, “To thine own self be true.”

When UNA President Robert L. Potts introduced Borgnine, of Beverly Hills, California, to make the mid-year commencement address Saturday, December 18, in Flowers Hall, the UNA Brass Ensemble, directed by assistant professor of music Richard L. Mason, played the U.S. Navy song, “Anchors Aweigh.” Borgnine, a 10-year Navy veteran, was visibly touched.

The citation for Borgnine’s honorary degree of doctor of humane letters noted, “Since your first professional role, more than 50 years ago, your natural talent and your strong commitment to maintaining the highest standards of your chosen profession have earned the strongest respect of your peers in the entertainment world, have endeared you to all Americans and have placed you forever in the most venerated ranks of the American entertainers of the twentieth century. You have achieved the highest professional stature, and that stature has enabled you to bridge continents and cultures and to affect lives throughout the world.”

Dr. Borgnine was accompanied by his close friend, UNA alumnus Dr. George Lindsey, of Nashville, Tennessee. Borgnine formally presented Friday a leather-bound collection of movie scripts from his career to Lindsey and Collier Library for the Lindsey Festival TV/Film Collection. The Borgnine collection was on display in the lobby of Flowers Hall during the commencement exercises. The collection will be permanently housed in Collier Library.

A Hamden, Connecticut, native, Borgnine attended the Randall School of Dramatic Arts. He debuted in Harvey on Broadway and did many television shows in New York early in his career.

After showing his acting brilliance as the brutal stockade sergeant Fatso in the film From Here To Eternity, he won world acclaim for his Oscar-winning portrayal in Marty in the title role of the Bronx butcher. His credits in almost 100 movies and almost as many television shows include roles in The Catered Affair, The Wild Bunch, Bad Day At Black Rock, Hoover, JAG, Small Soldiers, Last Great Ride and Mel. In the 1960s, McHale’s Navy, in which he starred, set a standard for broad comedy and ensemble work. The Lindsey/UNA Film Festival hosted the eastern U.S. premiere in April of Abilene, in which Borgnine starred.

For his work in the arts, Borgnine has previously been awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Columbia College-Hollywood. He also holds two other honorary degrees.

His career will be highlighted in an A&E special January 24, 2000.

Borgnine’s wife Tova heads her own world-famous cosmetics company and is becoming as well known on television with her products as her husband.

Also during the commencement, Bethany Maria Ellison, a third-generation UNA graduate, was awarded the Keller Key for posting a 4.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale during her attendance at the university. Also awarded a BBA degree in finance, she is from Russellville. Her father Gene Ellison, Jr., received his degree from UNA in 1974, while her mother Freida Wells Ellison got two degrees in 1974 and 1976. Her maternal grandmother Ann K. Wells received degrees from UNA in 1964 and 1976. Her paternal grandfather Gene Ellison, Sr., attended two years at UNA.

Retiring faculty Dr. David Curott, a professor of physics and earth science, and Dr. Marlon Rico, a professor of marketing, were recognized by Pres. Potts for their years of service to UNA.

Potts, vice president of academic affairs Dr. Kaylene Gebert and dean of enrollment management Dr. Sue Wilson presented 365 graduate and undergraduate degrees, with 51 of those coming from UNA’s graduate schools. Five received education specialist degrees, three master of arts, 28 master of arts in education, 13 master of business administration, two master of science in criminal justice, 10 bachelor of arts, two bachelor of fine arts, one bachelor of general studies, one bachelor of music, one bachelor of music in music education, six bachelor of science in music, 37 bachelor of business administration, 67 bachelor of science in education, 56 bachelor of science in nursing, 11 bachelor of social work and 122 bachelor of science.