Actor Daydreamed About Earning USF Diploma as a Teen

Photo by Shawn Calhoun.

Photo by Shawn Calhoun.

Native San Franciscan on growing up in the shadow of St. Ignatius and what the Jesuit mission means to him

Actor, activist, and native San Franciscan Danny Glover told a packed house in St. Ignatius Church two things during his Dec. 12 commencement address that surprised many in the crowd: He lives within walking distance of USF, and he often daydreamed about earning a USF diploma when he was growing up.

“I have lived within just a few blocks of USF since 1957 and continue to live within just a few blocks of here,” he told graduating seniors from the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I have walked around and through this campus not as a student, but as a paperboy delivering the San Francisco Chronicle for five years, from ages 13 to 18.” Glover’s pickup point was just steps from campus, at the corner of Turk Street and Parker Avenue.

“At 4:30 in the morning, when you hear mostly the sound of your own footsteps, I wandered around this quiet campus, thinking at some point in time, I might attend this school,” Glover said, adding that he even imagined sitting in St. Ignatius on graduation day and receiving his diploma.

When USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Glover beamed. “Words cannot adequately describe the feelings of pride and humility inside of me as I accept this honorary doctorate,” he said.

Glover is a distinguished and versatile actor whose career spans decades. His Broadway debut in “Master Harold”… and the Boys addressed apartheid in South Africa and led to a leading role in 1984’s Places in the Heart, which was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, as were two other Glover films, The Color Purple (1985) and Witness (1985). In 1987, Glover appeared with Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon and co-starred in three hugely successful sequels.

Glover juggles acting with activism and uses his success to increase social awareness on human rights, economic justice, and access to education and health care. In 1994, he traveled to South Africa to urge its citizens to vote in the country’s first fully democratic national election. He was arrested in 2004 after speaking at a rally protesting the humanitarian crisis in Darfur outside Sudan’s embassy in Washington, D.C. Glover has been a goodwill ambassador for both UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme and is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Amnesty International.

“I am especially pleased that USF honors this great artist who has always used his celebrity status to advance the cause of social justice and human respect for all members of our diverse society,” said Fitzgerald.

Graduating senior Justin Brillo ’14 says Glover surprised him. “I’m from LA and I see movie stars every now and then, but I never expected to see one at my graduation,” he says. “It was amazing to hear how much USF inspired him when he was young.”

During his address, Glover thanked longtime friend and USF alumnus Joe Marshall, who founded the Omega Boys Club.