Tommy Lee Jones '69 Wins Harvard Arts Medal

Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones ’69 was awarded the 18th annual Harvard Arts Medal at a ceremony on Thursday that highlighted his time at Harvard as well as his distinguished acting career.

“I believe my experience here was the best thing that happened to my creative life,” Jones said after receiving the award presented by University President Drew G. Faust. “For that, I will be grateful as long as I live.”

Jones’s varied talents and lengthy career were praised by Faust.

“[Jones] invites us to look at life without flinching until it reveals a spare truth,” Faust said. “He has explored life’s hardest questions as an actor, director, writer, and producer. We like to think Harvard prepared Tommy Lee Jones for all of this.”

Jones discussed his time at Harvard with former classmate and fellow actor John A. Lithgow ’67. Jones and Lithgow worked on student productions together during their time at Harvard and have remained friends since their undergraduate years.

“I started hearing a lot about you as an extraordinary anomaly—the only leading man in embyro who was also on the varsity football team,” Lithgow said to Jones.

Lithgow and Jones moved chronologically through Jones’s career, discussing everything from the Loeb Drama Center’s production of “White House Happening” in 1967 to Jones’s upcoming film with Meryl Streep, “Hope Springs.” In between humorous anecdotes about acting, Lithgow showed clips from Jones’ roles in the 2007 film “No Country for Old Men” and 1993 film “The Fugitive,” for which he won an Oscar.

Before receiving the medal, Jones answered a few brief questions from the audience, ranging from a query about breaking into the movie business to a marriage proposal.

After a woman in the audience asked Jones to marry her, he responded, “Yes. But you have to speak to my wife. She may have an opinion.”

This event kicked off the 20th annual Arts First Festival, which will last until April 29, 2012.

—Staff writer Petey E. Menz can be reached at menz@college.harvard.edu.

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