News

The Commencement Speaker: Thomas Tull

By Rachel Lieb '13

February 28, 2013

What could be better than a superhero in our midst? The man responsible for creating some of our favorite superhero movies, like Watchmen and the Dark Knight franchise.  Thomas Tull ’92, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, will deliver the 2013 Commencement address on Sunday, May 26, at 10:30 a.m. in the Margaret Scott Bundy Field House.

Tull intended to enroll in law school after graduating from Hamilton, but instead chose to return to his hometown of Binghamton, NY to start a series of small businesses, including laundromats and auto repair shops.  After developing his businesses and selling them for profit, he became involved in the entertainment industry through the private equity field.

Before forming Legendary Pictures in 2005, Tull was president and served on the board of directors of The Convex Group, a media and entertainment holding company headquartered in Atlanta, GA. He is a member of the board of trustees of the American Film Institute (AFI) and Hamilton College. Tull is a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and also serves on the board of the Fulfillment Fund and the San Diego Zoo.

In a 2008 talk to Hamilton students, Tull explained that before making a film, he asks himself, “Is it a great story?” and “How are you going to market the film?”  A self-proclaimed “film geek,” Tull also asks himself if he would want to go see the film.

Legendary Pictures has teamed up with Warner Brothers to create some of the most successful and entertaining movies for nearly a decade, including 300, The Hangover, The Town and Where the Wild Things Are.  In 2008, Tull conceived of and produced It Might Get Loud, a music documentary featuring The Edge from U2, Jimmy Page and Jack White.  Legendary Pictures will soon release Jack the Giant Slayer (March 1, 2013) and Man of Steel (June 14, 2013) with Warner Brothers.  Tull is also developing a film adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost for Legendary Pictures.

Tull will receive an honorary degree, along with famed fashion designer Oscar de la Renta; the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University; and Xinran, a Chinese radio journalist and best-selling author.  Honorary degree recipients are chosen by a special committee, made up of 13 trustees, including Chair Susan Skerritt K’77, President Stewart, Lori Dennison, three faculty members and three students.

Oscar de la Renta exploded onto the fashion scene in the ’60s and ’70s with his gypsy- and Russian-inspired collections.  de la Renta is best known for his evening gowns, dressing stars from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Anne Hathaway.   He pursues charitable activities in Latin America, which have earned him the Juan Pablo Duarte Order of Merit andthe Order of Cristóbal Colón from his native Dominican Republic. Active in the American fashion community, he served as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and in 1990 the CFDA gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award. De la Renta won the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award in 2000.

Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. will deliver the Baccalaureate sermon on Saturday, May 25, at 3 p.m.  A New York native, McShane was ordained in 1977 after receiving bachelors and masters degrees from Boston College.  After spending most of his career at different colleges, McShane assumed the presidency of Fordham University in The Bronx, New York. McShane is well known in Jesuit higher education for his collegiality and accessibility to students, faculty and staff. He helped establish prestigious fellowship programs at both Fordham and Scranton. During McShane’s tenure as president of the University of Scranton, academic and residential facilities were enhanced significantly and the number of applications to its undergraduate program increased to historic levels.

Xinran moved to London where she wrote her best selling book, The Good Women of China, which was a collection of stories from her career as a radio journalist in China.  Since the book was published in 2002, it has been translated into over 30 languages. She is also the author of Sky Burial (2004), What the Chinese Don’t Eat (2006), Miss Chopsticks (2007), China Witness: Voices From a Silent Generation (2008) and Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother (2010), a collection of stories from Chinese mothers who have lost or had to abandon children.  She frequently consults at the BBC and Sky television and has spoken to the British government on attitudes towards China. In 2004 Xinran set up the charity The Mothers’ Bridge of Love (MBL), which reaches out to Chinese children in all corners of the world by creating a bridge of understanding between China and the West, and between adoptive and birth culture. The MBL book for adoptive families, Motherbridge of Love, was ranked third on Time magazine’s list of the top 10 children’s books of 2007.

Tull’s winding career path will likely serve to inspire the Class of 2013, who may still be unsure about the exact direction their lives will take after Hamilton.  He and his fellow honorary degree recipients exemplify the success that hard work and determination can bring.

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