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Academy Award winner Tom Woodruff Jr. '80, special effects artist, actor, director and producer, will address students and their families, as well as faculty and staff as the keynote speaker, at Lycoming College’s 170th commencement, May 12. Woodruff will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Lycoming during the commencement ceremony.
Woodruff has been entertaining and terrifying moviegoers for decades with a carefully cultivated ability to create some of film’s scariest and most lifelike monsters and aliens, as well as other special effects. His most notable works include “Death Becomes Her,” for which he received an Academy Award, last year’s “IT,” “Annabelle: Creation,” and the Netflix feature, “Bright,” as well as past hits including “The Santa Clause,” “Starship Troopers,” “Alien: Resurrection,” and “Mortal Kombat.” Coming this year will be “Sorry to Bother You,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and “The Predator.”
“We very warmly welcome Tom back to his alma mater to share in this special celebration of the conferring of bachelor’s degrees upon the Class of 2018,” said Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D., president of Lycoming College. “A liberal arts education enabled Tom to successfully follow his interests. His willingness to pursue his passion and dedication to perfecting his craft can be a model for all, especially for graduating seniors.”
Born in Williamsport in 1959, Woodruff grew up in the area and graduated from Loyalsock High School. He graduated from Lycoming College in 1980 with majors in business administration and theatre. With classic films such as “Planet of the Apes” and “Frankenstein,” influencing his career path, Woodruff headed to Hollywood and quickly broke into the film industry, securing early film credits for the 1984 film “The Terminator” and in 1986 for “Aliens.”
In 1988, Woodruff co-founded Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. (ADI) with Alec Gillis, based in Chatsworth, Calif., to provide specialized animatronics and prosthetic make-up for a variety of movies. ADI has contributed to the success of more than 100 movies and Television Shows. His efforts have earned him an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, a BAFTA for Best Special effects for “Death Becomes Her,” as well as nominations for “Alien 3” and “Starship Troopers.” His work has also garnered several other awards and nominations.
“It’s a privilege to be invited back to Lycoming College as an honored guest and to address the 2018 graduating class,” said Woodruff. “I hope that by staying involved with Lycoming I can encourage others to believe they too have the opportunity to pursue what matters most to them and earn personal success and satisfaction.”
Lycoming College awarded Woodruff the Dr. James E. Douthat Outstanding Achievement Award for alumni in 1993. He returned to campus in 2006 as the freshman Convocation speaker, and again in 2017 to discuss his creative work and Hollywood career in a lecture. He and his wife, Tami (Spitler) ’81, have three children; David, Taylor and Connor.
Don Francis, president of the Associate of Independent Colleges & Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP), who will retire in June after 25 years of service, will also receive an honorary degree at this year’s commencement ceremony. During his tenure, he helped Lycoming College and other Pennsylvania private colleges, navigate contentious issues, such as rising tuition costs and fiscal legislation. Francis’ knowledge of higher education and his strategic abilities proved vital assets to Lycoming College. His advocacy has been instrumental in achieving funding of PHEAA and Ready to Succeed grant programs, which have assisted thousands of Pennsylvanians in pursuing the dream of a college education.
Graduating senior Ericka Booker, a Spanish major with a minor in human services from Brooklyn, N.Y., will deliver a greeting from the senior class at the ceremony. Booker is an active member of the Lycoming College community with involvement in Alpha Sigma Tau, Student Orientation Staff, L.A.C.E.S. (Lycoming Advancing Communities through Education and Service), the Leadership Experience at Gettysburg, W.I.S.E. (Williamsport Internship Summer Experience), Dance Club, and R.A.R. (Revolution Against Rape). Additionally, she helped to plan and participated in the inaugural Black Women Empowerment Workshop this spring. She also worked as a student assistant in the Health Services department. Booker was recently inducted into Rho Lambda Honor Society at Lycoming College.