WMU News

WMU awards Tim Allen honorary degree

June 27, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Tim Allen, star of ABC Television's "Home Improvement," was awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts degree today by his alma mater, Western Michigan University.

A 1976 graduate of WMU, Allen received the honorary degree from Board of Trustees Chairperson Lori B. Waddles during commencement ceremonies. Reading from the honorary degree citation, Waddles noted Allen's many accomplishments as star of the "Home Improvement" television series and such films as "The Santa Clause" and as a best selling author. The citation also recognized the work that he has done for charities, such as the YMCA, Forgotten Harvest and the Lighthouse, as well as his support for the state of Michigan and WMU.

In conclusion, Waddles said, "Thank you, Tim, for the laughter you have given us and for helping us to cope a bit better."

Allen gave the graduates a few words of advice during his remarks. "First of all, I hope that each one of you leaves here today with the memory of at least one professor who really inspired you.... Another thing that really helped me in my life, and it's going to sound trite and a bit obvious, but -- it's setting goals.

"And the last little nugget of wisdom?" he concluded. "I believe that it's better to make bold choices in life, than to make no choices at all. If you're idle, you won't get anywhere. Now, there is a down side to this, however. You will significantly increase your odds of making a few wrong choices. The trick is learning to find a stronger direction in life when you do make mistakes. Like playing the piano, you get better with practice. Believe me -- I'm a master at it. Keep moving forward, but remember, mistakes will happen."

"I am so grateful that Tim came back before I left office so that we could honor him with this degree," said Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, who will be retiring as WMU president at the end of July after 13 years. "I'm sure that his presence and remarks to the graduates will have special meaning to them."

Accompanied to Kalamazoo by his wife, Laura, who is also a WMU graduate, 8-year-old daughter, Kady, and Spot, the family dog, Allen's presence at the graduation came as a surprise. His appearance was confirmed earlier in the week, but was not announced until the last minute at his request in order to keep the focus on the graduates and Haenicke, who received his own honorary degree during the ceremonies.

"Tim wanted to attend this graduation because it is Dr. Haenicke's last and because of their relationship," said M. Jamie Jeremy, executive director of the WMU Alumni Association, noting that Haenicke made a special appearance on "Home Improvement" in 1995. "However, he was concerned

that his appearance would be a distraction from the important events of the day, so we were asked not to mention his coming until the very last minute."

Since there were no tickets required to attend this graduation, keeping Allen's appearance under wraps also helped to ensure that the families of graduates would not have to vie with others for the limited seating that was available in Miller Auditorium.

Also during the ceremonies, Robert G. Miller, president of the WMU Alumni Association, presented Allen with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Allen was selected for the award in 1996, but scheduling demands delayed the presentation of the award until now.

Allen quickly left the auditorium by a rear exit following his remarks and to the applause of some 1,500 graduates and others in attendance. The ceremonies then proceeded with the conferring of degrees.

Media Advisory: Audio portions of Tim Allen's remarks to the WMU graduates are available by telephone at (616) 387-2032 (local) or toll-free at 1-888-WMU-NEWS. Call the newsline and select (2) from the main menu. The full text of Allen's remarks and a downloadable electronic image are available on the front page of WMU News at <www.wmich.edu/wmu/news>. A brief biolography of Allen is available below.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 616 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu


Tim Allen (biography)

Born in Denver, Colo., Tim Allen and his family moved to Birmingham, Mich., when he was 13 years old. A graduate of Birmingham Seaholm High School, he transferred to Western Michigan University in the winter term of 1974, after starting his college career at Central Michigan University.

Allen majored in communication, specializing in radio and television production, and was active in WIDR, the University's student radio station. He earned a bachelor of science degree in April 1976.

In 1979, on a dare from a friend, Allen began his career in comedy at Detroit's Comedy Castle. Five years later, while performing in Akron, Ohio, Allen discovered the humor in the communication difficulties that exist between men and women. His audience that night loved it and Allen, recognizing a good thing, made it the centerpiece of his act from then on. Shortly thereafter, Allen married his college sweetheart and WMU graduate, Laura, in Saginaw, Mich.

In 1988, Allen's hard work on the concert and club circuit paid off when he was featured on a Showtime cable television special. This was followed in 1990 by a second Showtime special, which he insisted be done at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo. Allen also became a father that year, with the birth of his daughter, Kady.

In 1991, ABC Television and Disney Studios signed Allen to a contract for a weekly television series. And with this, Tim "the tool man" Taylor and his "Home Improvement" show were born. The new series was a huge success right from the start, reaching #5 in the ratings its first year and climbing to #3 in 1993.

Then in 1994, "Home Improvement" became the nation's top rated weekly series. That same year, Allen debuted in his first feature film, Disney's "The Santa Clause," which was the box office hit of the season. Other Allen movie credits include Disney's "Toy Story," for which he was the voice of Buzz Lightyear, "Jungle 2 Jungle" and "For Richer or Poorer."

Allen has also penned two books. His first, "Don't Stand Too Close To A Naked Man," hit the best seller lists in 1994. This was followed by "I'm Not Really Here" in 1996.

Allen has proven that he is not only multi-talented but one of our most popular performers. His many awards include the Golden Globe Award, People's Choice Awards, Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards, American TV Awards and a TV Guide Reader's Poll Award.

Despite all of this success and recognition, Allen has remained true to his roots in Michigan. He maintains residences in the state and travels back frequently for relaxation, to visit childhood friends and to support worthy causes like the YMCA, the Lighthouse human services agency of Oakland County and Southfield's the Forgotten Harvest food cooperative. He takes part in benefit performances and debuts his feature films at the Fox Theatre in Detroit with the proceeds going to charity. He also uses his television series to promote the state, filming a number of episodes in Michigan, and frequently wearing clothing that promotes WMU and other state universities.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 616 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

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