Graduates can look forward to meeting CBS’s “60 Minutes” correspondent Andy Rooney at Sunday’s Commencement ceremony – they should just remember not to ask for his autograph.
Rooney, who said his decision to speak at Commencement was influenced by the fact that his granddaughter will be part of the 2005 graduating class, said he refuses to give autographs because they are “nonsense.” He added that being well-known is a “pain in the neck.”
“I get really annoyed when people come up to me and ask, ‘Hey, are you Andy Rooney?'” he said in an interview with The Hatchet last week. “I don’t have a lot of patience for that, and I don’t do autographs because it seems silly to write my name on a piece of paper.”
Rooney’s granddaughter, senior Alexis Perkins, characterized her grandfather as “blunt and straightforward,” adding that he is “remarkably candid with people.” While she admitted that people who do not know him well find him rude, she said that is not the case.
“He has a seemingly rough exterior, but overall he’s a very good guy,” she said. “He has a great amount of respect for his fans and he’s really a very warm and caring person.”
Rooney said he is unsure of what type of message he plans to convey to this year’s graduates, but added that it will probably be related to opportunities for young people in the job market. Despite his dislike for popularity, Rooney said he enjoys speaking to graduates and has done about 35 to 40 commencement ceremonies.
He said he declined an offer to speak at another graduation this year, refusing to say which school asked him to speak.
“You can only do one really,” Rooney said. “I always write new stuff so it would be hard to do more than one.”
While he said students looking for jobs in the media industry will have a hard time trying to find one, he thinks that overall the job market for graduates today is broader than when he was job hunting.
“I know everyone complains it’s hard to find a job, but I think there are more opportunities than ever before,” Rooney said. “It’s hard when you’re getting out of college to get started, because employers don’t know you and there is just a limited amount of information your resume can give.”
Speaking about the media, Rooney said that although people in the field today are “better educated than when I came into the business,” jobs are diminishing because companies are spending less money.
Rooney never made it to his commencement. After spending three years at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., he left school for the Army after being drafted to serve in World War II. He spent four years touring Europe and writing for Stars and Stripes, a daily newspaper distributed to the military community overseas by the Department of Defense.
“It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “I was thrown in there with all these guys that had so much experience, and I had none.”
Prior to that, Rooney was the editor of his college magazine. When he returned from combat, Rooney said he chose not to finish his college education.
“My father asked me when I got back if I wanted to go back to college, and I said, ‘For what, to teach?'” Rooney said.
Despite never having finished college, Colgate University awarded Rooney with an honorary degree in 1986. He has about 13 others and said that while he usually denies honorary degrees from universities, he plans to accept one from GW at Commencement.
Rooney started with “60 Minutes” in 1962, working as a producer during its first seasons and writing scripts for the late Harry Reasoner until 1968. Once Reasoner left the show, Rooney took over as news correspondent.
“I didn’t have anyone to read my stuff so I went on the air,” he said.
Rooney has won three Emmy Awards for his news essays, which number more than 800. He has also won the Writers Guild Award for best script of the year six times, more than any other writer in the history of television.
Following the Commencement ceremony, Rooney said he plans to spend the remainder of the weekend in the D.C. area celebrating with his granddaughter. He will also attend a barbeque at his twin sister’s house in Bethesda, Md. While the University invited Rooney to a Board of Trustees dinner Sunday night, he said he declined the offer.
Perkins said her grandfather is very close with the entire family, and that he has been supportive of her throughout college. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history and plans to begin a career in journalism.
While she does not know where she will be working, Perkins said she has not asked Rooney to use his connections to help her out.
Throughout his interview with The Hatchet, Rooney, an expert in journalism, could not help but engage in role reversal. When asked about his college experiences and how they influenced his life – or if any media personalities influenced his career – he responded to both by saying, “That’s not a question.” He also asked several of his own questions throughout the phone conversation.
Rooney said he has never considered retirement as an option and plans to remain in the media “until I die.”
“Why would I do that?” he said, of leaving his trade. “Not unless I lose my marbles, which is possible.”