Producer, writer, director, and cinematographer: When it comes to documentary filmmaking, you do it all, and you do it superbly well. Painstakingly produced and hailed by the critics as historically insightful and utterly faithful to their subjects, your films have captured every major award in the field.
You began your apprenticeship, not in filmmaking, but as an English literature major here on College Hill. A member of the Class of 1965 from New Jersey, you played varsity basketball and even captained the team. You also spent time in the stacks of the old James Library, where, as you recalled many years later, you first found that learning is a process of discovery. Starting out in the film business as an assistant cameraman, you in time formed your own production company. From it has flowed more than 100 films on subjects ranging from art and poetry to science, and, of course, history and biography. In collaboration with Bill Moyers you produced such films as Healing and the Mind. For The American Experience series on PBS, there were the biographies of presidents: LBJ, the two Roosevelts, TR and FDR, and Truman. And more recent films have included Abraham and Mary Lincoln and, in a giant leap across the Atlantic, Napoleon.
Widely acclaimed in bringing the past alive both in images and words, your films have a poetic quality and a narrative drive that one critic has compared to the force and integrity of a novel.
In your remarkable versatility in combining creative art with craft, you have taken documentary filmmaking to an incomparably high level.
David Grubin, acting on the authority of the Board of Trustees, I am very pleased to confer on you the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts of Hamilton College, admitting you to all of its rights and privileges. In token whereof, we present you with this diploma and invest you with this hood.
Eugene M. Tobin
May 25, 2003