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The new graduates celebrate.








Hollywood producer and former University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) School of Filmmaking Dean Jordan Kerner – “as someone who cares passionately about our responsibility as artists to the world” – challenged the 206 UNCSA college graduates on Saturday, May 10, “to become a citizen of this nation and our world. What are you trying to say to the world with every breath you take in your performance, with every pixel of your motion picture cameras in the films you make?

“In my five years as dean of the School of Filmmaking I would often say to my students, no matter what you think or believe, your film will sit somewhere on a spectrum between denigration and elevation. I do not see a valid choice here, not in this volatile world. I am a believer that we must all compel our nation and the world to look carefully at their choices and their indifference. Use your artistry and your artistic work to this end. Please know that your work has effect, great effect culturally, morally and politically in every corner of the globe in which it plays. You need to risk much in your journey to find your voice. Do not leave any of yourself in a safe place, put every fiber you have into this quest to discover the foundations of your core beliefs. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”



Jordan Kerner delivers the commencement address.


Interim Chancellor James Moeser presided over the commencement ceremonies, held on the stage of UNCSA’s Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem, as a packed house of family and friends snapped photos and captured videos. “I just realized I’m not in Chapel Hill,” Moeser quipped, referring to his eight years as chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill. Moeser was tapped as interim UNCSA chancellor last summer by UNC President Tom Ross. Moeser will serve through June 30, when he returns to UNC-Chapel Hill as Chancellor Emeritus and a member of the Music faculty there.

James Moeser


Quoting everyone from Russell Baker, Ken Burns and Vaclav Havel to Bono and Sting, Kerner asserted: “So Baker, Burns and Havel challenge us to break through the useless white noise of anger, to not reduce our complex national issues and solutions by denuding them into the overly facile judgments of whether they are good or evil, and to take responsibility for our planet as if we were going to live on it forever. These are issues that you can shine a bright stage or HMI light on. We will all benefit from your illumination of what we must see clearly; what we must solve; and ultimately what we must commit ourselves, our nation and our world to addressing. You are the citizen artists who can play a large role in this. It is a role you all must embrace, for our future depends upon it.”

Kerner said that with the help of the class of 2014, America can be, once again, “a country of problem solvers, a country of people who are not afraid to think and compromise, a country that revers ideas and nonpartisan solutions over angry hollow rhetoric, a country still in its prime, ready to lead the rest of the world in what we collectively believe is of value and worth.”

Kerner also said the UNCSA grads are “among the luckiest graduating artists in the nation. You have received a very rigorous education from one of the most highly regarded arts schools in the world. Over the last decade each UNCSA school has risen to the top tier of our nation’s arts school rankings. A diploma in your chosen endeavor means more now than at any time in this school’s history.

“You will be part of a new generation of artists,” Kerner continued, “who test our nation’s cultural architecture with the ideas behind the plays you write, the musical notes you play, the modern dance moves you make, the theatrical worlds you paint and the films you create. …”

Two hundred and six college students graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, representing 32 N.C. counties and 29 states and foreign countries/territories including Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway and South Korea.

Also at the ceremony, Tadeu Coelho, UNCSA School of Music faculty member, was awarded the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award. And former Chief Academic Officer Elaine Pruitt received the Giannini Society Award.

Interim Chancellor Moeser declined to deliver his closing remarks due to the fact the ceremony ran longer than expected. They can be found online here.

Read Jordan Kerner's full remarks.

Read Elaine Pruitt's full remarks.

About Jordan Kerner

Jordan Kerner is president and founder of The Kerner Entertainment Company, which is committed to high quality, value-oriented, provocative entertainment.

Mr. Kerner most recently produced the live action/CG animation hybrid THE SMURFS 2 for Columbia Pictures, which was released in the summer of 2013. It has earned nearly $350 million in its release, bringing the two-picture total for SMURFS 1&2 to nearly $1 billion worldwide. It was the sequel to THE SMURFS, released in 2011, which grossed over $560 million worldwide. Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays and Sofia Vergara took live action roles in this adaptation of the classic books by Peyo. It was directed by Raja Gosnell.

Mr. Kerner previously produced a faithful live action adaptation of the revered E.B. White book “Charlotte’s Web” for a Holiday 2006 release. It was written by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Susannah Grant (ERIN BROCKOVICH) and Karey Kirkpatrick (CHICKEN RUN). The late Gary Winick (LETTERS TO JULIETTE, 13 GOING ON 30) directed the film.

Mr. Kerner’s previous films include such titles as SNOW DOGS, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE 1 and 2, Inspector Gadget 1 and 2, Red Corner, Up Close and Personal, The Mighty Ducks trilogy, The War, When a Man Loves a Woman, Fried Green Tomatoes and Less than Zero, as well as the television movies A Wrinkle in Time, Heatwave, For Their Own Good, The Switch, and many others, including the “Mama Flora’s Family” miniseries and “The Judds” miniseries.

Mr. Kerner was named a billion dollar producer by Variety Magazine in July 2013. He was awarded the Producer of the Year Award by the Hollywood Entertainment Museum at its 2006 Legacy Award Event. His films have received nominations for or won Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, BAFTA Awards, The People’s Choice Award, The Critics Choice Award, The Nick Award, DGA Awards, WGA Awards, The Humanitas Award, The Christopher Award, NAACP Award, The Diversity Award, The Golden Satellite Award, The Golden Reel Award, The Art Directors Guild Award and Visual Effects Society Awards.

Currently, Kerner Entertainment has more than 20 projects in development for theatrical and television release. These include prominent franchises such as THE SMURFS 3, ALF, and Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Mr. Kerner is an active member of the board of directors for the Los Angeles River Revitalization Board. He has served as a trustee of the Starbright Foundation and an executive producer of its Diabetes and Asthma CD-Rom games; a member of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s California cabinet; and on the board of directors for the media office established by California Governor Jerry Brown’s Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons; the President’s Advisory Council for the City of Hope; the Chrysalis Foundation; a former director of the Show Coalition; a director of the RiverRun International Film Festival; as well as a former governor of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Beverly Hills Bar Association Barristers. He was the founder and former co-chairman of the Committee for the Arts of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, an organization providing legal aid to indigent performing artists, with educational programs and speakers for disabled and arts/entertainment groups. Mr. Kerner is a member of Planned Parenthood’s political action arm, the Sierra Club, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Producer’s Guild of America and The American Film Institute.

In 2007, Mr. Kerner became the dean of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking. He began to re-imagine the manner in which film, television, animation, gaming, and other new media are taught in the 21st century. He made the tenets of value and worth the guiding principles of the storytelling at UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking, and initiated a number of visionary cross-university and interdisciplinary programs. Mr. Kerner oversaw the rise of the School of Filmmaking at UNCSA from a strong regional program to the #2 public university school of filmmaking in the nation; #8 overall school of filmmaking in the United States and #12 in the world. He was named one of the 50 most influential individuals in the Triad of North Carolina three years in a row. He resigned in 2012 to return to producing films in Los Angeles.

Mr. Kerner is a graduate of Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Distinction in political science and communications. He also received a joint graduate degree from both the University of California at Berkeley with an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business (including an emphasis in public policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy) and University of California at San Francisco, Hastings College of the Law, where he was a member of the UC Hastings Law Review and founder and Chief Editor of COMM/ENT The Journal of Communications and Entertainment Law.


More scenes from the day follow.


Commencement 2014 Photos

It "snowed" during the May 10 commencement ceremonies inside the Stevens Center. The graduates from the School of Design and Production were prepared.


Interim Chancellor James Moeser presided.


Elaine Pruitt, who received the Giannini Society Award, delivered remarks about the history of the School of the Arts.


Graduates return to their seats after receiving their degrees.


Outside the Stevens Center following the commencement ceremony



                                                                                                        Photos by G. Allen Aycock