One University Commencement, Keaton speech to draw students from all eight campuses

Nighttime at Dix Stadium Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

Lydia Taylor

 Not only did Kent State President Beverly Warren unveil Michael Keaton as the 2018 One University Commencement speaker Monday, but she also highlighted a major change to this year’s graduation ceremony.

University-wide commencement

In Fall 2016, Warren announced her plans for a university-wide commencement for the Spring 2017 graduating class, which welcomed all branch campuses at Dix Stadium to listen to Octavia Spencer’s speech. After the speech, each college departed from the stadium and held separate graduation ceremonies on campus. 

This year, the university plans to read all the graduates’ names at Dix Stadium Saturday, May 12 beginning at 10 a.m., no matter what branch campus they are from or what degree they have — bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate — instead of each college having its own graduation.

All regional graduates have the option to take part in their campus ceremonies, as well.

“This university-wide celebration reinforces the university’s recognition as one of the largest public research universities in the nation with one of the closest families in the world,” Warren wrote in an email to the Kent State community.

The university kept with the theme of hiring high-profile celebrities to speak at the commencement. Spencer spoke for about 20 minutes last year and was paid $100,000. This year, the school will welcome Keaton back to campus, and he will also be paid $100,000.

Back from the big screen

Born in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, Keaton enrolled at Kent State in 1971 to study journalism and speech. Once he realized he wanted to pursue an acting career, Keaton decided to leave Kent, Ohio, after two years at the university and move back to Pennsylvania, where he got his debut on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in 1975.

Realizing that acting is what he wanted to do, he paved his path to Los Angeles. His career quickly took off, landing roles in “The Mary Tyler Moore Hour,” “Maude” and hosted “Saturday Night Live” three times — 1982, 1992 and most recently in 2015.

Keaton once spoke at Kent State in 1985 inside the Student Center, and according to the press release, he had hoped to come back once more.

Keaton stayed busy since 1975, starring in iconic roles including Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” (1988), “Batman” (1989), and “Batman Returns” (1992). Throughout the years, Keaton had been nominated for awards multiple times for films, including “Live from Baghdad” (2002) and “The Company” (2007), but didn’t win — that is, up until the last couple of years. 

In 2014, “Birdman” hit theaters with Keaton as its lead. The film captured the attention of audiences around the world and grossed a total of over $103 million worldwide at the box office. Keaton took home the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. He also received the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Best Actor and Best Comedy Actor.

The streak continued when “Spotlight” released in 2015. The plot is centered around the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, which investigated Boston-area Roman Catholic Priests who sexually abused children. The cast won the Golden Globe for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. 

Since his recent successes, he’s also starred in “Spiderman: Homecoming” (2017) and “American Assassin” (2017). Keaton is currently in filming for the movie “Dumbo,” directed by Tim Burton, which is set to be released in 2019.

“I am looking forward to coming back and taking part in Kent State’s Commencement ceremony,” Keaton said is the press release. “It’s truly an honor for me, and I hope by taking part I can inspire others to pursue their dreams.”

Lydia Taylor is the editor. Contact her at [email protected].