Leonard Nimoy (Hon.’12), the actor best known as Mr. Spock in the television series Star Trek, beamed onto campus on Saturday to deliver the College of Fine Arts convocation address.
Following an introduction from CFA Dean Benjamin Juarez, who noted Nimoy’s contributions as an “actor, photographer, director, poet, and philanthropist,” the performer approached the podium flashing his now legendary Vulcan sign, which drew a big laugh from the crowd of 1,000 graduates, family members, and faculty and staff gathered at the Track and Tennis Center.
Nimoy began his 20-minute address by recounting stories of growing up in Boston’s now-demolished West End, attending games at the Boston Garden and learning to sail on the Charles River. “I grew up in this great city surrounded by the academia, the arts, and a powerful wave of immigrant energy,” he said, noting how much he continues to love the city.
While Nimoy initially dropped out of college to pursue a career as an actor, he later earned a degree from Antioch College. He stressed to graduates the importance of hard work in achieving success.
“I never worked, I never drank, while I was smoking…wait, I got that backwards,” he said, laughing with the crowd. “I never worked drunk! Oh Scotty, beam me out of here.”
He recalled working nights as a taxi driver in Los Angeles to support his growing family—a job that allowed him to keep his days open for acting auditions. “One day I picked up future president Jack Kennedy at the Bel Air Hotel,” he said. “We chatted about careers, politics, and show business…Kennedy said, ‘Lots of competition in your business, just like mine.’ And then he gave me this: ‘There’s always room for one more good one.’ Words to live by, and I tried to do that.” The story clearly resonated with the graduating students.
Nimoy reminded students that he didn’t become a successful actor until age 35, when he was cast in a new television series, Star Trek, in 1966. Despite its short run (the series was canceled in 1969), the show became ingrained in American pop culture. Nimoy continued to play the character in more than a half dozen Star Trek movies and directed the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. He has also acted on Broadway and currently appears in the popular Fox sci-fi series Fringe.
As he concluded his address, Nimoy told the Class of 2012, “You are the creators and curators of your own lives. Give us the best of your art. We crave it, we hunger for it.” In a nod to his iconic role, he ended by adding “And of course, live long and prosper.” With that, he gave graduates the Vulcan salute. They returned the favor with a standing ovation.
On Sunday, Nimoy was given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University’s 139th Commencement.
Shaw Hubbard also contributed to this story.