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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Opinion

Staff Editorial: McConaughey doesn’t feel close to UH


As if Matthew McConaughey delivering a commencement speech at UH wasn’t enough to raise eyebrows, news that the University will pay the actor $135,000 drew local and national attention. Paying so much for McConaughey, a University of Texas alumnus, may have seemed to some like UH was buying the enemy’s queen and not focusing on its own prominent alumni.

Until now, UH’s commencement speeches were college-specific. Now, there will be one large commencement ceremony for all graduating students in TDECU Stadium, and the entire city is invited to the party. What better than a prominent celebrity to bring our University and its namesake city together?

Students looking for even a loose UH tie will appreciate that McConaughey’s father played football here, and if that’s not enough of a connection, McConaughey is a Texan. It’s about the man under the cowboy hat, not his alma mater…we guess.

“While the professional awards and accolades are impressive, his philanthropic and humanitarian work on behalf of children and young adults through the j.k. livin Foundation are aligned with the University’s mission,” UH said in a statement.

UH also said the funding source for the speaker fees — funds taken from the continuing education fund — was chosen so that “no tuition fees or state funds were used for this purpose.”

OK, so he’s well-known, and he’s giving back to others, a recent emphasis in UH’s hopes for its effects on the Third Ward. But we’re not lacking in philanthropic UH graduates. President of Shell Oil Company Marvin Odum, who got his MBA in business administration from UH, oversees a company that has donated more than $62 million to local causes since 1974. Emmy Award-winning actor and UH alumnus Jim Parsons has given $300,000 to the local Catastrophic Theatre.

If UH is proving how high it can aim, then it has done that fairly well with the completion of the new Student Center, TDECU Stadium and now its first University-wide commencement speaker. And while all of it looks good on paper — and in person — we shouldn’t overlook the successful alumni who have paved the path for the rest of us.

At the very least, it just feels weird to have a Longhorn oversee the first city-wide commencement ceremony at TDECU Stadium.

— The Cougar Editorial Board

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