May 28, 2006

Back by popular demand: John Cleese appointed Provost's Visiting Professor for three-year term

John Cleese is back by popular demand -- again. Cornell President Hunter Rawlings broke the good news during his Commencement address today. See transcript of speech at http://www.cornell.edu/president/speeches_2006_0528.cfm.

"We have been fortunate to have John Cleese as an A.D. White Professor for eight years -- two years longer than the normal term," Rawlings said. "He has been so popular we've now made him Provost's Visiting Professor in response to requests from students and faculty."

Cleese's A.D. White professorship ends next month, and his Provost's Visiting Professorship is for a three-year term.

Cleese is best known for his work appearing in and co-writing the 1970s British television series "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and "Fawlty Towers." His films include: "A Fish Called Wanda," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Life of Brian," "Time Bandits" and "Fierce Creatures." More recent work includes roles in the films "James Bond 007: Die Another Day" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and several appearances in the TV sit-com "Will and Grace."

Cleese holds an M.A. in law from the University of Cambridge and an honorary LL.D. from St. Andrews University, where he was rector for several years. He has co-authored two books, "Families and How to Survive Them" and "Life and How to Survive It." He is the producer of a series of acclaimed interactive multimedia training programs for business as well as a series that promotes positive and informative interaction between physicians and patients.

Appointed an A.D. White Professor in 1999, Cleese used his role to introduce other notable visitors to campus whose knowledge, expertise and enthusiasms were in concert with his own, including Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman, wildlife preservationist Simon Hicks and W.C. Fields biographer James Curtis. Cleese became known on campus for presenting eclectic rounds of public talks on topics ranging from human development and animal welfare to the works of W. Somerset Maugham. He delivered a sermon at Sage Chapel on his experience with religion, gave public readings and screenings of Python blockbusters and generally seemed to relish his role as "professor-at-large."

Throughout his career Cleese has used humor as a teaching tool. Along with his Monty Python cohorts, he has helped present relatively advanced concepts in philosophy, science, history, religion, politics, human relations and physics to general audiences.

The Provost's Visiting Professorship is a limited-term appointment and yes, it is renewable. So, there is the possibility -- the possibility -- that Professor Cleese will be with us for some time to come, silly walks and all.