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Thirty-five Years After He Started, Steven Spielberg Gets His Degree

June 3, 2002
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“Schindler’s List” etched a new aspect of the Holocaust into the public mind — now it has helped Steven Spielberg graduate from college.

The celebrated filmmaker, who holds five honorary doctorates — as well as three Oscars and a string of box office records — received a bachelor’s degree in the arts last Friday from California State University at Long Beach.

Some 34 years after dropping out of the university’s film school, Spielberg, 55, completed the requirements for the degree by writing term papers and completing several general education courses, all through independent study.

The school waived the requirement that seniors submit a polished 12-minute film, ruling that “Schindler’s List” would do.

Spielberg, garbed in cap and gown, sat among his fellow 500 graduates. The Cal State administration had earlier asked them not to take advantage of the situation by pressing their film scripts on him.

When the name Steven Allen Spielberg was called, the filmmaker rose, as did the audience of some 6,000, while the band belted out a 15-second rendition from the theme music for “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Spielberg skipped any remarks but raised his hands, holding up two fingers in a “V” for victory.

Three days earlier, Spielberg, also attired in cap and gown, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at Yale University.

Yale President Richard Levin conferred the degree on Spielberg, lauding the “artistry and imagination” of his movies, as well as his contributions in preserving the memory of the Holocaust.

For the occasion, the Yale band struck up the theme music from “Indiana Jones” as Spielberg walked to the podium.

One of the foundations established by Spielberg following “Schindler’s List” is the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which last week announced its California Challenge Campaign.

The campaign seeks funds for cataloging the testimonies of some 3,900 Holocaust survivors who are now residents of California. The California State Library and University of Southern California will participate in he project.

Since Spielberg created the Shoah Foundation in 1994, more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses in 57 countries and 32 languages have given their testimonies.

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