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‘Unlimited, irrational support:’ Weaver, Simpson address Monmouth grads on creative partnerships

Jim Simpson and Sigourney Weaver at Monmouth College's 2024 Commencement.
Monmouth College
Jim Simpson and Sigourney Weaver at Monmouth College's 2024 Commencement.

On a warm spring afternoon, 165 Monmouth College students received their diplomas on the Wallace Hall Plaza.

But before that, they got to hear from a two-time Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee.

“It’s wonderful to look out and see this great sea of tartan and hear those bagpipes. It’s really marvelous,” said actor Sigourney Weaver, standing at a lectern next to her husband, writer and director Jim Simpson.

Weaver has starred in such films as “Alien, “Ghostbusters, “Gorillas in the Mist,” and “Avatar.”

“Because we have kids, we know that you guys already know everything. There’s nothing you’re going to hear from two old people in show business that’s going to rock your world,” Weaver told graduates. “We aren’t experts in how to reverse climate change or create world peace. Or even who to call if you’re actually dealing with ghosts or extraterrestrials.”

But what the couple could share with graduates in their commencement address are insights on creative partnerships. They will be married 40 years in October.

Weaver said it’s an advantage in life to have a partner who is also doing something they love.

She said it doesn’t have to be a spouse – it could be a friend or a group to bounce ideas off and give ‘unlimited, irrational support’ to whatever you’re trying to achieve.

“This is a good thing in this harsh world and this happy partnership has allowed us to achieve much more than we could have on our own,” Weaver said.

Early in the address, Simpson joked, “I know many of you are wondering. Who is this guy standing next to Sigourney Weaver? I mean, what’s he really doing here?”

Simpson’s sister Gail Owens is a 1974 graduate of Monmouth College and a member of the board of trustees.

“She is really one of the finest people I know, and she’s an alumna of Monmouth and has continued her association with your great school, serving as a trustee” Simpson said. “Because of that, I have great respect for the school that helped make Gail all she is.”

Simpson also outlined several fundamentals of creativity. First, he said, you have to have fun with it, or the juices won’t flow. Second, know your material. And lastly, be prepared.

“There’s so many variables in a given project that you can’t anticipate and that you don’t know are going to hit you. The one thing you can do is prepare the heck out of it. And that’s what you can control,” he said.

Weaver touched on the topic of failure, telling graduates they probably have some idea of where they’re going after receiving their diplomas, but not to be surprised if things don’t go exactly as planned.

“When I look back there were all kinds of jobs that I had my heart set on that I didn’t get,” she said. “I mean, frankly, I only wanted to work at Lincoln Center and do movies with Mike Nichols. That was a bit unrealistic.”

But, Weaver said, in every case of disappointment, another job would come out of nowhere and be much better than what she originally envisioned.

“This is also where the universe comes into play,” she said. “The universe might have plans for you that you can’t see, and that’s a good thing."

Weaver and Simpson were awarded honorary doctorates from Monmouth College in arts and philanthropy.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.