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From the archives: Director Mike Nichols speaks to Class of 1972

November 24, 2014
archival photo of Mike Nichols adjusting his commencement cap before the ceremonyDirector Mike Nichols prepares for the 1972 commencement ceremony. Photo courtesy of Rare Books and Special Collections.

“This is the first graduation I’ve ever attended,” director Mike Nichols began his commencement address to the University of Rochester Class of 1972. “I don’t know much about graduations except what I’ve seen in the movies.”

Nichols —  the Emmy-, Grammy-, Oscar-, and Tony Award-winning director, writer, and actor — died on Wednesday, Nov. 19 at the age of 83. At the 1972 ceremony, Nichols received an honorary doctor of letters degree. By 1972, Nichols had directed Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Graduate, Catch-22, and Carnal Knowledge. Nichols went on to direct such films as Heartburn, Working Girl, Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge, The Birdcage, and Charlie Wilson’s War.

LISTEN: Mike Nichols on his history with graduation ceremonies.

LISTEN: Mike Nichols on the value of NOT having an opinion.

In his speech, Nichols told the graduates, “I would counsel you against opinion. I find that world is riddled with opinion. … Somebody interviewed me once and said, ‘What do you think of Marshall McLuhan?’ and I was surprised and not displeased to discover that I had no thoughts at all. … That’s OK. There are many useful things in discarding opinion, at least part of the time, to see what happens to you. To just hang out and see what happens, and at least going by my experience, things get better.”



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Category: Society & Culture