Coming Home Again: SOU Hosts & Honors Alumnus Ty Burrell on Campus
Home means different things to everyone, but a place that nurtures and encourages growth is just one of the many definitions of home. That’s just what SOU is for alumnus Ty Burrell ‘94, who visited the campus on Friday, April 7th to receive the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award.
In fact, the Emmy award-winning actor was born in Grants Pass where he attended Hidden Valley High School. Burrell began his journey as an actor at the University of Oregon transferring to Southern Oregon University to finish his Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. Burrell has had a prolific career in stage, television, and film and is most well-known for his role in the hit television series Modern Family. He credits part of his successful journey in the creative arts to his experience as a student at SOU.
Burrell brought his wife, Holly, and two daughters along for the visit, and started the day with a campus tour including a walk-through of the Oregon Center for the Arts (OCA). He was accompanied by the OCA Director David Humphreys and Alumni Relations Director Mike Beagle, among other SOU constituents. His longtime friends and current SOU faculty members Miles Inada and Nick Oredson joined the group for the honorary celebration.
Some highlights of the day included meeting with EMDA, Theatre, and Digital Cinema faculty for a roundtable discussion on career pathways in film and television. OCA Director David Humphreys facilitated the conversation, which emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the many creative industries SOU prepares its students for. Other subjects included Hollywood culture, NY theatre life, and the importance of authenticity in creative work.
Several students, chosen by faculty, were also able to participate in a group discussion with Burrell, facilitated by faculty members Robert Arellano and Jackie Apodaca. The students discussed Burrell’s career and his journey as an actor. Burrell emphasized the importance of exploration and autonomy in SOU’s Theatre program. As a student, Burrell loved the freedom he had to experiment, which allowed him to grow as an individual and a creative actor. He was very glad to see that kind of freedom still existed at SOU. He encouraged and hoped that SOU would never lose that unique feature of their programs. He advised and encouraged students to try everything, build their confidence, and approach all their work with open-mindedness.
EMDA faculty Robert Arellano said of the visit, “Meeting with Ty Burrell gave EMDA and Theatre students a chance to dream together about how digital innovation and performance are growing continuously closer for SOU grads pursuing careers in the arts and entertainment.”
The campus tour ended with an awards ceremony at Jefferson Public Radio. President Rick Bailey presented the award to Burrell, commenting on how Burrell is carrying forward an important creative legacy that started at SOU. Former Theatre faculty Dennis Smith and Chris Sackett, teachers of Burrell’s, were also in attendance.
Mike Beagle, Director of Alumni Relations for SOU said about the visit, “Choosing Ty Burrell as our Distinguished Alumni Award winner helps celebrate Ty’s long and distinguished acting career and recognizes his contribution to his alma mater. It was gratifying to see such a wonderful, humble, and gracious human being with his lovely family on campus, soaking in everything new and reminiscing about his time here and appreciating what his degree and training did for his career.”
Burrell’s family has a rich history with SOU—his mother graduated from SOU in 1973 as did his uncle, which contributes to the idea of SOU as home. The SOU Raider family is proud to have Ty Burrell as an alumnus of the university and appreciates the generosity of spirit he brought to SOU during his visit.