For now, though, I want to shine the spotlight, as it were, upon our convocation speaker this year, Leith Adams. It is great perk of my job that I get to meet the distinguished alums who we invite back to campus as convocation speakers each year, and this year I really enjoyed having the chance to spend a bit of time with Mr. Adams and his wife Char. Inspiring, charming, lovely people. Also, as it happens, Leith is in charge of the batmobiles! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Mr. Adams, who grew up in Paris, Illinois, earned his B.A. in English from the University of Illinois in 1969. From there, by way of one tour of duty in Vietnam and another at film school at the University of Southern California, he found himself in Los Angeles and working for Warner Bros. He is now the Executive Director of the Warner Brothers Corporate Archive. This is important work. Film is arguably the most recognizable narrative art form of the last century, and certainly films—from new blockbusters to classics in revival— lie at the core of our shared cultural experience. Adams's work involves curating and preserving this important cultural legacy. Adams is also the only speaker I have ever introduced who has a) written a book with an introduction by Dennis Hopper, and b) been featured in the newspaper with Voldemort's cloak.
I was also pleased to have Adams address the class of 2012 because his personal story exemplifies something that I know to be true and that I see instances of all the time: the fact that English alums succeed in a huge variety of different kinds of unexpected careers and that the English major--with its emphasis on analysis, creative critical thinking, cultural awareness, and writing skills--turns out to be great preparation for almost anything.
Adams may be a big shot Hollywood guy, but he's still one of ours! And—to quote from one of Warner Bros. best known and most beloved films—he'll also always have Paris, Illinois.
Here, very lightly edited, is the text of Adams's address to the class of 2012.