I think it's fun - and revealing - to see what Jim's old friends and his hometown newspaper have to say about him.The Norman Transcript
The Norman Transcript - 4/4/03
Best known for his roles in the popular television series “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files,” actor James Garner won over a whole slew of new fans Thursday when he made a $500,000 donation to the University of Oklahoma to create an endowed faculty chair within the School of Drama.
OU will request matching funds from the State Regents for Higher Education to create the James Garner Chair in Drama, the first endowed position in the drama school’s history. The position will be designated for the director of the school.
As OU President David Boren made the announcement to a packed Weitzenhoffer Theatre, drama students and faculty members jumped from their seats and offered up a standing ovation accompanied by loud cheers.
“I don’t think anyone would dispute he’s Oklahoma’s favorite son,” said Boren. “We’re so proud of him. We’re especially proud to claim him because of the kind of person he is. He has never forgotten his roots.”
Garner, a Norman native and former OU student who still keeps up with the Sooners, choked back tears — hidden by dark sunglasses — and requested a box of Kleenex as he addressed the crowd.
“Oh dear. I’m not good at this,” Garner said, voice cracking and admitting he suffers from agoraphobia. “It’s touching to me, as you can see, that I’m at a time in my life where I can come back here and do this.
”The gift to the university was originally something Garner intended to leave in his will, but longtime friend and OU graduate Bill Saxon convinced him about two months ago to go ahead and make the donation.
Garner said he felt privileged and honored to have the means to make the contribution to his alma mater. He said his family members, former high school teachers and a lot of former Norman business owners would be surprised to learn of the gift.
“Having been raised here and watched this university grow, I’m so proud of it,” he said. “It never entered my mind that I’d be able to do this.”
Garner ended his visit by answering questions from OU drama students, offering them words of advice and signing autographs.
“Acting professionally can break your heart,” he told the students. “If you have it in you and you want it, you’ll do it. Just keep in mind who you are.”
Throughout his 50-year acting career, Garner has kept close ties to Oklahoma, Norman and OU. Several members of his family — the Bumgarners — have been active in the community.
Garner has made gifts to OU since 1979 and lends his stardom to OU’s annual Sooners in the Desert golf event in California, served on OU’s Reach for Excellence Committee and as an honorary member of the Campaign Council to build the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. OU awarded him an honorary doctorate of human letters in 1995.
Garner is scheduled to be in Norman again in October when Norman holds its first film festival. The actor said he may not be able to make the engagement, however, because he’ll possibly be in England shooting his next film.
Transcript Entertainment Editor Tami Watson can be reached at 366-3533 or via e-mail at email@example.com.Tami Watson
Fortunately, Jim was able to make the Film Festival. Details later...