The brilliant filmmaker and UW Madison alumnus Errol Morris was awarded the Honorary Doctorate by his alma mater at the May 17 commencement. This is the highest honor the University can bestow on one of its alumni. The WCFTR takes pride in having spearheaded Errol Morris’s nomination for that award. WCFTR sponsored the honorary degree nomination, with co-sponsorship support from the Departments of History and Communication Arts.
Errol Morris received his UW degree in History in 1969 and lived for a time in Wisconsin after graduation. In the course of his time in Madison, he spent many hours in the WCFTR archive, watching films from the collection and educating himself about film history. He has often acknowledged the value of that experience in cultivating his growing interest in cinema. In a profile in the alumni magazine On Wisconsin Morris praised the WCFTR and its film collections:
“It was an extraordinary resource,” [Morris] says of the trove of prints that included thousands of movies from Warner Brothers, RKO, and a number of Hollywood’s so-called Poverty Row studios. He began viewing films there as a student and then returned after graduating. “You could go into a room with a Kodak Pageant projector and start watching movies — you could program your own film festival,” he says. “You could select a director like William Wellman and watch thirty Wellman films, or, if you wanted, you could watch Howard Hawks or John Ford.” (from On Wisconsin Magazine, spring 2009).
During his Madison visit over commencement weekend, Mr. Morris revisited the WCFTR and Wisconsin Historical Society archives and met with staff. It was a pleasure for WCFTR and WHS staff members to welcome Errol Morris back to the institution that played such an important role in his early career.