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The Award Steven Spielberg Chased For 33 years

January 19, 2016

He finally received it on May 31, 2002. It was a fairly common award but it was one that had eluded the partners in his film studio David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Likewise some of the most successful men in the world lacked this on their resumes. 

  • Bill Gates – Founder of Microsoft
  • Steve Jobs – Founder of Apple and Pixar
  • Larry Ellison – Founder of Oracle Computers
  • Mark Zuckerberg – Founder of Facebook
  • Michael Dell – Founder of Dell Computers
  • Sheldon Adelson – Super rich Las Vegas mogul
  • Scott Walker – Governor of Wisconsin
  • Rush Limbaugh – Most popular talk radio host
  • Sean Hannity – Second most popular talk radio host
  • Glenn Beck – Third most popular talk radio host

On the campus of Cal State Long Beach in 2002 world renowned filmmaker Steve Spielberg received his college degree by completing a Bachelor of Arts with an option in film/video production. Why would Spielberg, who at the time had won three Oscars, a half dozen Emmys, Golden Globe awards and even five honorary doctorates, bother to go back to college? 

As you consider that question, a more interesting question might be should you go back to school? To finish a bachelors? Get a masters? Get a doctorate? 

He was one of the most dominating centers to ever play professional basketball. Known by a variety of knicknames, he was always Shaq. He earned four NBA championships. He went to 15 All-Star games. He was the NBA Finals MVP three times. He was the All-Star game MVP 3 times. And yet, just a year after retiring from professional basketball, he added one more honor. The guy who often sounded like he was swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool walked across the stage at Barry University in Miani, FL. He wasn’t there to get his Bachelors, nor a Masters. He was being awarded a doctorate in Education. 

Why? Why would these men who were at the height of their professions subject themselves to the rigors of college coursework? 

Both cite a promise to their parents. 

One, I promised my parents I would [follow my passion for education]. Two, I wanted to continue my education and three I wanted to challenge myself.” – Dr. Shaquille O’Neal.

Spielberg offered this explanation,

I wanted to accomplish this for many years as a thank-you to my parents for giving me the opportunity for an education and a career. And as a personal note for my own family– and young people everywhere– about the importance of achieving their college education goals.” 

My friend Darren is a senior manager in a bank. He recently completed an MBA program. His coworkers thought he was crazy. They didn’t understand why he would subject himself to that trouble of earning a degree that would not necessarily help him immediately advance in his career. 

The IT industry is constantly reinventing itself. Every year our collective body of knowledge goes through a birthing and dying cycle. New processes, new products, new standards are released. And some knowledge that was the height of technical innovation just a few years earlier is unceremoniously laid to rest. The IT industry is the least sentimental, I’ve ever seen. We eat our young without a second thought. Yesterday’s technologies are dropped as we chase the latest and greatest. You might be cutting edge in your adoption of technology. There’s a step before cutting edge. The industry often embraces the bleeding edge. 

There are always opportunities for growth and learning. Sometimes it’s certifications. I added CompTIA A+, Network+ and Security+ certifications last year. Ironically as soon as I earned them, a three year countdown timer starts until they are obsolete. However, as techies, we also have the opportunity to do what Speilberg did, to go back and finish an incomplete bachelors degree. Or do what Dr. Shaq did and go on to pursue higher degrees. Part of the appeal is to keep current, but there is a joy in learning for it’s own sake. And if you haven’t finished your degree, there is the feeling of unfinished business. 

Spielberg’s professors said that while he didn’t attend classes, he did all of the work. . .with one exception. Instead of requiring him to submit a 12 minute polished film, they allowed him to reuse one of his existing films, the academy award winning Schindler’s List. 

If you have unfulfilled education goals, what’s stopping you? 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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One Comment
  1. ted baldwin permalink

    There is an old joke – What do you call a jew with a Master’s Degree? A college dropout.

    I felt like a failure for not completing a PhD in Chemistry, but I had learned what I wanted to, I was not going to teach in college, and I didn’t need the degree for anything I wanted to do. So i settled for an MS. Twenty years later the nightmares about academic tests, missing class and finals, and being in endless classes ended for the most part when I realized I did not need the approval they had trained me to thirst after.

    I see Spielberg’s works as the genius they can be, but the nagging sense I had that he has abdicated his viewpoint to those he thinks are smarter is validated by his completion of a degree.

    Some of his films are predicated on the most liberal feel good nonsense of politically correct memes. I think he is a great director if not our greatest, but a genius like his is diminished when propagandists posing as gurus invest their agendas in otherwise benchmark creations. It is difficult not to admire people with ideals. Abd difficult to refuse them when you think they accept you and have good intentions. I have been impressed with him from his earliest wirks, including Twilight Zone and Duel.

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