Do celebrity commencement speeches make the grade?

By Clarissa Cruz and Nicholas Fonseca
June 08, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s time for grads to sit back, relax, and hope their parents don’t notice their hangovers. But for celebs receiving honorary degrees, the pressure’s on. Do stars’ recent commencement speeches make the grade?

WENDIE MALICK (”Just Shoot Me”) at Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio PEARLS OF WISDOM ”Laugh with your whole body, get your hands dirty, trade in being cool for being kind.” REPORT CARD Malick sheds her boozy TV alter ego with a poignant speech in which she announces she’s 50! Some call it a faux pas; we call it courageous. Props, girlfriend. B

TONY BENNETT at George Washington University, Washington, D.C. PEARLS OF WISDOM ”In the golden era…we had Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, George and Ira Gershwin. Where is there a George and Ira Gershwin today? There isn’t.” REPORT CARD Odd from a man whose career was boosted by MTV. He sates the crowd with ”I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Did he leave a better speech there, too? C

ANDIE MACDOWELL at Lander University, Greenwood, S.C. PEARLS OF WISDOM ”If you fall down…just get back up and keep on going.” REPORT CARD She rambles on about her pet charity — and a fund-raising drive. Just what parents who shelled out four years’ tuition want to hear. C-

DAVID E. KELLEY at Boston University School of Law PEARLS OF WISDOM ”I’d like to talk about five simple truths…. And as highly educated people, you will be the most prone to forgetting what is basic.” REPORT CARD Sometimes silly but generally endearing, the ”Ally McBeal” creator manages to work in both a challenge to live an ethical life and a yarn about a Jewish scholar and a hooker. Bygones. A-

ANG LEE at New York University in New York City PEARLS OF WISDOM ”Collaboration and sharing are as much a part of learning as is individual talent or genius.” REPORT CARD Brevity may be the soul of wit, but with his 292 words, the ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” director offers little direction — and inspires only yawns. C-

BOB NEWHART at Loyola University, Chicago PEARLS OF WISDOM ”You don’t actually have to be intelligent if you can just create the perception. This can usually be accomplished by a reference to Kafka. Even if you never read any of his — or her — works. REPORT CARD The sitcom staple doesn’t disappoint. And he shows restraint, limiting himself to just one Notre Dame joke. B+

Random Quote

”There’s a few things I know for sure: Grow up, but don’t grow old…. Miracles happen every day…. Elvis is most certainly alive.” — JON BON JOVI, addressing grads at New Jersey’s Monmouth University