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Sunday, April 21, 2019

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McConaughey’s paycheck stems from continuing education program


The actor will receive over $100,000 for speaking at UH commencement.  |  Courtesy of UH Media Relations

The actor will receive over $100,000 for speaking at UH commencement. | Courtesy of UH Media Relations

Academy Award-winning actor and Texas native Matthew McConaughey’s expected visit this May to deliver the first University-wide commencement speech has generated buzz all around campus.

After a confidentiality clause prevented UH from disclosing McConaughey’s fee, the University announced that the A-list actor will be paid $135,000, plus travel costs, which he plans to donate to his charity, the j.k. livin foundation, which aims to “empower high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future.”

According to Richard Bonnin, executive director of media relations, McConaughey was selected by an administration-approved committee. His speech will mark the first time the new TDECU stadium is utilized for a commencement ceremony.

“We now have the opportunity to include the University community in the celebration, as the new TDECU Stadium can accommodate a much larger audience,” Bonnin said.

UH will also pay 15 percent of the fee (around $20,000) to the agency that McConaughey was hired through, Celebrity Talent International.

“The University has always maintained that the speaker fee information is public,” Bonnin said. “As soon as the University’s business with CTI concluded, the University immediately disclosed the speaker fee information.”

The announcement of his selection has generated national news coverage and feedback that has been both positive and negative. Some students and alumni argue that the money could be better spent fixing other problems on campus, while others view it as a long-term investment that will ultimately pay off.

“I think many people will walk away from many years of hard work with the satisfaction of having a celebrity give them and their families words of encouragement as they move on from this milestone in their lives,” biomedical engineering junior Taylor Anthony Tomasino said. “Not to mention, the celebrity brings with (him) attention to our university.”

The fee will not be paid using student tuition fees; instead, the cost will be covered using money from UH’s continuing education program, a collection of online classes for non-UH students that offers workshops, extended training and certificate programs. The decision to use money from the CEP was made largely in part to ensure that no tuition fees or state funds were used to pay for the speaker.

“The students in Continuing Education are of all ages and education levels, and most of them are not enrolled at UH or any institution of higher learning,” Provost Paula Short said. “They are simply interested in the pursuit of knowledge, and the Continuing Education program at UH advances the mission of our University as a global provider of education by giving these students additional valuable learning opportunities.”

According to Short, revenue generated from the CEP is classified as designated sales and may be used at the University’s discretion.  While UH is technically allowed to use student fees to fund speakers, Short said those fees should be used for the “purpose for which they are assessed.”

McConaughey, who is closely associated with the University of Texas, has ties to UH through his father, “Big Jim,” who played football here.

“UH is a global university that seeks excellence internally and externally,” Bonnin said. “His philanthropic and humanitarian work on behalf of children and young adults through the jk livin Foundation are aligned with the University’s mission.”

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