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SU Honorary Degree Recipient Cliff Robertson Dies at Age 88

Published on September 14, 2011

Acting legend Cliff Robertson died on Sept. 10, just one day after his 88th birthday. He was an internationally known corporate spokesman, award-winning writer and director, and star of television, stage and screen.

In 1985, at the request of his longtime friends Bill and Lynne Karniol, Robertson presented the Karniol Endowment for the Arts lecture at Susquehanna University. He was also the keynote speaker for the opening of Susquehanna’s Window of Opportunity campaign. In recognition of his achievements in the entertainment industry, corporate communications and in service to others, Susquehanna University awarded Robertson a Doctor of Fine Arts in 1993.

A native of LaJolla, Calif., he began his acting career on Broadway, where recognition of his talent landed him a role in Josh Logan’s first motion picture, Picnic, in 1956. During the more than 50 years he spent in show business, Robertson appeared in more than 60 movies including PT 109, which chronicled President John F. Kennedy’s heroism as a naval lieutenant. In 1969, he received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Charly, and in 1968, he received an Emmy for Best Actor for his role in the TV show The Game. The Screen Actors Guild of America also honored Robertson with a special commendation for his stand against corruption in the film industry. Beginning in 1981, he served as a chief spokesman for AT&T in domestic and international television and radio advertising. In 1984, Ad Age named him “Ad Man of the Year.” His most famous contemporary role was that of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.

Robertson’s professional success was matched only by his charitable work. Throughout his career, he generously gave of his time and talents to advance the work of charitable organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the American Parkinson Disease Association, the United Way and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Karniol noted that “Cliff’s talent as an actor and constant champion of volunteerism and good deeds was unmatched through much of his personal and professional life. He did so much for so many.”

Robertson’s immense talent, profound moral convictions and far-reaching generosity will be sadly missed in the world.

Victoria Kidd

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