Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
It is in our power to construct a millennium of our own making.
By Micah Mertes
In a previous article, we highlighted the only alumnus (that we know of) to be nominated for an Academy Award in the ceremony’s 95-year history. But Creighton’s Oscar connections don’t end there.
What follows is a list of nominees and winners who have come to Creighton, along with one alumnus who was one of the central figures in an Oscar-nominated film.
* * *
Actor. Nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1971 for The Great White Hope. Won an Honorary Academy Award in 2012.
In 1998, Jones — the voice of Darth Vader and Mufasa and the co-star of such classics as Field of Dreams, Coming to America, The Sandlot and The Hunt for Red October — gave a Creighton Program Board-sponsored lecture to 1,900 guests at the Omaha Civic Center. Jones was the substitute guest for writer Maya Angelou, who had to cancel her appearance for personal reasons.
Jones talked about many things during the Creighton event, including the timeline of the Star Wars series and the potential his student audience held to shape their future.
“It is in our power,” he said, “to construct a millennium of our own making.”
* * *
Actress. Won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1950 for All the King’s Men. She was nominated for the same award in 1957 for her work in Giant.
McCambridge was also known as the voice of the devil in The Exorcist. (To achieve that iconic demonic voice, she reportedly ate raw eggs, chain-smoked and gargled whiskey before each recording.)
In 1975 — just a few years after The Exorcist became a box office sensation — McCambridge came to Upper Brandeis to deliver a speech to 200 students about her personal battle with alcoholism. After achieving sobriety, McCambridge spent much of her remaining years speaking about alcoholism and leading an addiction recovery treatment center.
* * *
Actress. Won the Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar in 1948 for The Farmer’s Daughter. Nominated for the same award in 1950 for Come to the Stable.
Young — who also costarred alongside Cary Grant in The Bishop’s Wife — came to Creighton in 1966 to deliver a lecture entitled “Artists in the World.” At the event, Creighton President Henry W. Linn, SJ, conferred to her the Distinguished Citizen Citation.
* * *
Actress. Won the Best Support Actress Oscar for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1967.
In 1974, the Hastings, Nebraska-born actress narrated the works of Willa Cather for the Cather Centennial Concert in the Becker Hall dining room. Dennis’ reading was accompanied by the University of Nebraska orchestra and chorus performing spirituals, cowboy ballads and other music Cather referred to in her writing.
Dennis’ film career also included roles in The Out of Towners, Splendor in the Grass and Sweet November. Interestingly enough, she filmed her final movie in her home state: 1991’s The Indian Runner. The Sean Penn-directed crime drama — which, in addition to Dennis, starred Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Hopper, Charles Bronson and Patricia Arquette — was filmed in Plattsmouth, Omaha, Arlington and Ralston, Nebraska.
* * *
Actress. Nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for American Gangster in 2008.
In 1977, Dee came to Creighton with her husband and longtime acting partner Ossie Davis. About 600 people in Upper Brandeis watched as the two took turns telling folk tales and reciting poetry and stories written by Black writers.
“Not because Black writers are better,” Davis said at the time, “but because they have been left out of American literature, and that is a great loss. Black folks in America have either been not perceived at all or misperceived.”
Dee and Davis were married from 1948 until his death in 2005. When they weren’t starring in films together, they were fighting for civil rights. Later in their lives, they were named to the NAACP Image Hall of Fame and awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Dee’s film and TV career spanned nearly 70 years and more than 120 credits, including A Raisin in the Sun, The Jackie Robinson Story, Do the Right Thing and the 1994 miniseries The Stand, in which Dee played Mother Abagail, incidentally one of the most famous Nebraska characters in all of fiction.
Ernie Chambers, BA'59, JD'78
Chambers wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award himself, but a film in which he’s prominently featured — the documentary A Time for Burning — was nominated for best documentary feature at the 1968 Oscars.
The film, directed by Bill Jersey, follows L. William Youngdahl, a minister of Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, who attempts to integrate his all-white congregation with Black Lutherans in the city’s north side.
One of the most memorable parts of the faith-based documentary shows Youngdahl’s meeting with a young barber named Ernie Chambers. Chambers, then a recent Creighton alumnus, tells the minister his concerns about race relations, particularly through the lens of faith communities.
“We’re fighting ignorance,” Chambers said, “in the place where there should be the most enlightenment.”
Shortly after the documentary debuted, Creighton brought Chambers to speak on campus. The student organizer of the event told her classmates beforehand: “This discussion should be eye-opening to many students. You may walk away angry, but at least that is a sign that you have started to think and reason things out for yourself. For any growth, one must have conflict.”
* * *