Universal Studios President and COO Ron Meyer Headlines with Inspired 2012 Commencement Address

Alums Spheeris and Finney honored at ceremony dedicated to TFT's founding dean, the late Gilbert Cates

Universal Studios President and COO Ron Meyer, co-founder of the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and the longest-serving studio chief in Hollywood history, delivered powerful practical advice to film and theater students as TFT's commencement speaker for 2012.

"We were very honored and delighted to welcome Ron Meyer as our Commencement Speaker this year,” said TFT Dean Teri Schwartz. "Ron is a leader of extraordinary skill and vision. His industry insights, experiences and values were an 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."

Meyer shared the podium at Dickson Court North on the UCLA campus in Westwood with the 2012 recipients of TFT’s Distinguished Alumni Awards, director and screenwriter Penelope Spheeris '69, MFA '73, for Film, and award-winning director/actor Shirley Jo Finney MFA '73, for Theater.

“Our Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are groundbreaking, artists," said Dean Schwartz, "whose outstanding career accomplishments are a tribute to the very best that is TFT."

"Moreover," Schwartz continued, "we are very honored to be able to use this important occasion 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."

In addition to being TFT's founding dean, Cates was an industry legend, a director on stage and screen, the Emmy®-winning fourteen-time producer of the annual Academy Award® broadcast. A moving tribute to Cates was read by UCLA Chancellor and personal family friend Gene Block.

Appointed President and COO of Universal Studios in 1995, Meyer changed the face of Hollywood when he co-founded CAA 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, 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, 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."

Distinguished Alumna Finney is an established television and film director and actor who garnered the International Film Award for Best Director for her short film 'Remember Me." She is an alumna of the American Film Institute Directors Workshop for Women and 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 Block presented the widow of Gilbert Cates, Dr. Judith Reichman, with a commemorative tribute in honor of her late husband. Cates’ legacy to UCLA and the entertainment industry was remembered as well as his unfailing kindness and generosity to the School's students and fellow faculty members.

TFT commencement ceremony honors more than 200 students from the School's two departments, Theater and Film, Television and Digital Media. The school conferred 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.

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