University of Montevallo celebrates Spring Commencement
“I’d like to thank the Academy, my director and castmates … oh, that’s the wrong speech. I keep wanting to give that one,” began character actor, Michael O’Neill during his commencement address at Flowerhill on May 5.
He immediately added that he was extremely honored to serve as speaker for this momentous occasion. He explained the plight of the character actor is that people often think they know you but can’t place how. “I’m pretty sure that before announcing me as your speaker, many, if not most of you, didn’t know who I was. I noticed that my Google and IMDB hits went up pretty dramatically, and I thought it was because I was doing ‘Scandal.’ But it turns out it was you.”
During his speech, O’Neill challenged graduates to learn from the NOs. “‘No’ can energize you. It will challenge you to look at what you can improve. But more than anything, it will force you to define your worth,” he said.
O’Neill recounted a meeting with a potential agent who told him ‘no.’ As he left that meeting, he looked at their client list and memorized the actors who were similar character actors to himself. He then vowed that those actors would never beat him again. So, whenever he has seen these actors at auditions, it has made his focus sharper and his audition stronger. “I did some of my best work after that point on, and it all started with that ‘no,’” he said.
O’Neill offered career advice including the power of education and life lessons. He shared his experience with addiction and encouraged the audience to reach out for help if they encountered such an issue, whether for themselves or someone they knew.
In concluding the speech, he shared the best advice he had been given by a mentor, “It’s not the getting there, it’s the road going that you’ll look back on and cherish. So, I wish you a long road, a good road, straight in some places and curved in others.” His powerful words received a standing ovation and appreciation from those in attendance.
Following the address, President John W. Stewart III conferred 340 candidates for bachelor’s degrees (which included 130 from the College of Arts & Sciences, 46 from the Stephens College of Business, 81 from the College of Education and 83 from the College of Fine Arts), 57 candidates for master’s degrees and 7 candidates for the educational specialist degree.