A room full of school administrators, family and friends made their way into the lower level of the Fogelman Executive Conference Center auditorium April 2 to celebrate a former University of Memphis professor and director of the documentary “I Am” Tom Shadyac.
Dean of College of Communications and Fine Arts Anne Hogan introduced Shadyac. She talked about the triumphs and accomplishments of the distinguished honorary who she mentioned was a “unanimous no brainer” for the award because of his philanthropy along with a dazzling list of achievements.
Hogan mentioned how Shadyac started in the entertainment industry as a writer for the multi-talented artist Bob Hope. Listing his directing and producing of works that have starred comedians Eddie Murphy and Jim Carrey in works such as “The Nutty Professor,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “Liar Liar” and “Bruce Almighty.” She mentioned how his foundation of humanitarianism can be traced to his father, attorney Richard Shadyac Sr. who served as president of the ALSAC, the fundraising branch of St. Jude Children Research Hospital. Richard Shadyac helped found the hospital with comic legend Danny Thomas.
In Memphis, Shadyac’s philanthropy can be seen through his creation of the first indoor rock-climbing venue in the city, Memphis Rox, alongside the One Memphis center located in Soulsville neighborhood.
A video of UofM President M. David Rudd, Shelby County film commissioner Linn Sitler and some of Tom’s associates talking about some of their favorite works by Shadyac and his impact on Memphis.
“He was speaking in a way I never ever heard anyone speak before about just being true to yourself and pursuing your dreams,” is how Joshua Cannon describes his first interaction with Shadyac.
Cannon, a 2015 alumnus of the UofM, was the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Helmsman when he ran across Shadyac’s name and decided to cover him for a story. After graduation, Cannon was hired alongside former UofM student Chris Dean by Shadyac to work for one of his many business ventures.
After the video interlude, Shadyac delivered his acceptance of the award for the performing and creative arts. Most of his speech included statements about what he called “turning it around,” where he would pass around the award and focus on the people in the room that made it possible for him to be honored.
“You opened the door for me,” Shadyac said about Rudd. “It’s really hard to get the education system to open the door. You were creative, you were bold enough, you were daring enough to say let give it a try.”
Tom Shadyac then bestowed the award upon some of his investors and executive director of the One Memphis center Reggie Davis. Shadyac credited him for helping to run the organization.
“He’s an impossible combination of preacher and professional,” Tom Shadyac said.
Shadyac then honored his brother and his team.
“Without their vision, we would have not birth our vision because what I have tried to do in Soulsville with my team is build a social version of their physical hospital version,” Shadyac said.