Sometimes Things Just Work Out

I had the distinct privilege and honor of introducing the Tony Award winning actor, Joe Mantegna (now Dr. Joe Mantegna) at the commencement ceremony for the graduate school of psychology, where I am a trustee. My introductory remarks were as follows:

President Horowitz, I have the great honor to present to you Mr. Joe Mantegna, for the honorary degree of Doctor of Psychology.

Mr. Mantegna was born and raised right here in Chicago. A graduate of Morton East High School, his early days as a professional actor trace to the Organic Theatre Company where he worked alongside the likes of actor Dennis Franz and playwright David Mamet. In 1984, he won a Tony Award for originating the role of Ricky Roma in the Broadway production of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Mr. Mantegna’s film work includes House of Games, Homicide, Bugsy, The Godfather Part III, and Searching for Bobby Fischer. On television he received Emmy nominations for his roles in The Last Don, The Rat Pack, and The Starter Wife. He also is known by millions of Simpsons’ fans as the voice of Fat Tony. He currently can be seen starring on the CBS series Criminal Minds.

Mr. Mantegna is being honored today for his work on behalf of children with autism, which spans more than 20 years. He is actively involved with organizations such as Autism Speaks, Actors for Autism, the Easter Seals, the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center at Eisenhower Medical Center, and HOME Ownership Made Easy, an organization that offers affordable housing opportunities to individuals with disabilities and their families.

Mr. Mantegna, allow me to be the first to formally welcome you to our academic community. I am confident that you will feel at home as all of the graduates seated before you share your commitment to service and community. These values, along with education and innovation, are core commitments of a Chicago School education.

I now ask that you please join me, along with Chairman Grunsten, and Dr. Drake Spaeth, Chair of the Faculty Council, as we award the Honorary Degree. This degree is presented in accord with the resolution authorizing its awarding at the annual meeting of The Chicago School Board of Trustees on May 16, 2008.

Before the ceremony, I had asked Joe a question that I am sure that he has been asked many times. I said to him, “How is it that you went into acting?”

He replied. “Well, I tried out for a play in high school and got the part-and, I loved it. Then, I tried out for some more plays and got those parts-and, I was hooked. I knew that this is what I wanted to do.”

He continued, “There were some disappointments along the way. I tried out for West Side Story, but didn’t get the part. I was devastated-but, continued auditioning for other roles, and was successful in getting those. And, I never looked back. I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

He paused for a minute, and then looked at me and said, “You know, sometimes things just work out.”

I was stunned. We do forget that, don’t we? When things don’t work out for us, we tend to fall into the trap of thinking that it never will. But, they sometimes do.

Sometimes things do work out.

It was a great reminder from the newly minted “Dr. Mantegna”. Fat Tony couldn’t have said it better himself!

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