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Tina Fey Came to Temple, and We’re Still Not Over It

“What advice would you give to someone chasing their dream?” asked an enthusiastic student.

“It depends on the dream, because if you want to join ISIS then I can’t help you.” replies Tina Fey bluntly.

This morning’s Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Awards ceremony was long-awaited by Temple University faculty, alumni, and students. Alas, it was finally “that Tina Fey thing” everyone was talking about for the last month.

Tina Fey, an Upper Darby native, bleeds Cherry and White. While not an Owl herself, Fey’s father, the late Donald Fey, graduated from the School of Media and Communication in 1966, and her brother Peter graduated with a journalism degree from SMC in 1984. In addition, Adam McKay, an almost-Temple graduate (he dropped out a semester-and-a-half before his graduation date), worked with Fey on Saturday Night Live. So, it’s safe to say that she’s had her fair share of exposure to Temple.

When their father died last October, Tina and Peter decided to memorialize him with a scholarship for students in the School of Media and Communication. Donald Fey loved to learn; he taught himself French and Greek, and was mistaken for a Greek citizen at the Acropolis. He was also a Korean War veteran, which is why Tina and Peter decided to use the scholarship to honor veterans returning to college after serving their country.

Tina was given the Excellence in the Media Award today in recognition of her many, many successes, including two Golden Globe awards, 6 Emmy awards, her writing and performances on Saturday Night Live, her novel Bossypants, and her production of Mean Girls, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, etc. I could go on for another six pages.

The ceremony started with a student conversation led by Fey herself. Hundreds of students filed into the Temple Performing Arts Center at 9:30a.m., anxiously awaiting a glimpse into the ultra-successful media mogul’s life. Students were given the opportunity to ask questions about media, communication, screenwriting, advice, and more.

Much of the conversation focused on Fey’s time at Saturday Night Live, her masterpiece Mean Girls, being a producer and director the vastly male-dominated field, and far too many questions like, “Can you quick give a shoutout to my mom/sister/dog _____?”

Fey gave notable advice on lessons she learned in college: “70 percent of what you learn in college is how to live with roommates.” Agreed, Tina.

She said that college is the place to build the confidence you need in the real world. She also urged students to not let failures stop them from chasing after their dreams.

“If one door doesn’t open, look for a basement window or something.”

Fey herself did not start her TV career until she was 30. She was rejected from Saturday Night Live the first time she auditioned. She mentioned that she spent many of her early years going paycheck-to-paycheck, working at the YMCA and spending all of her money on pizza, onion rings, and bus passes. (Sounds a lot like us…@Philly Style, @SEPTA)

“I think what’s so special about Tina Fey is her authenticity. Being in the presence of someone who is so larger than life, and yet so real and genuine was truly an honor.” said senior journalism major Logan Beck after attending this morning’s conversation.

Like this is a woman who admits to failing and to having some of her improv sketches “flop”, but at the same time she has six Emmy’s and an ongoing group chat with Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph.

Fey says they keep each other grounded.

“Nobody’s getting Botox, right? Just checking.” said Fey of the kinds of texts that get sent in the group chat.

Just everyday conversations with mega-stars. It’s casual.

David Boardman, Dean of SMC concluded the conversation, and students gave Fey a standing ovation.

“There’s a lot of Don Fey spirit this morning,” he said.

A few hours later, alumni, School of Media and Communication faculty, notable students, and the press were invited to the official Lew Klein Alumni in the Media awards ceremony luncheon in Mitten Hall, where six Temple alumni were honored with a “Lewie” award. Honorees included news anchor Chanteé Lans (‘06), advertiser Rich Levy (‘79), director of daytime programming at CBS Laurie Seidman (’98), director and executive producer Michael Grossman (’81), Rich Lerner (’83) of The Golf Channel, and journalist and radio host Solomon Jones (‘97).

The lovely Tina Fey was given another opportunity to speak when she accepted her Excellence in the Media Award. She was introduced by her brother, Peter. As she walked on stage, she said, “Wow, it’s such a pleasure to formally meet you!” Laughter ensued. Honestly, what else did the audience expect from a world-class comedian?

This time, Fey focused a lot of her speech on her father’s legacy and the lessons he taught his children.

“He taught me that it was important to write and speak concisely; that your words matter.”

She spoke fondly of her love for Philadelphia’s low-BS tolerance, television writing, SNL, and even told the audience of her first interaction with presidential candidate Donald Trump on the SNL stage.

“I was co-hosting Weekend Update with Jimmy Fallon at the time, and we did a silly bit when Donald Trump was the host. We did the beginning of Weekend Update and we said, ‘Welcome to Weekend Trumpdate’…and I was all dressed up in a pageant gown with a sash that said ‘Miss Trumpdate’. We were rehearsing and Donald Trump came down on the floor and he said, ‘You look very nice like that. You should dress like that more often.’ I remember thinking, like, ‘Nobody asked you!’”


Fey promised students and alumni that she would keep striving for excellence, never go halfway, and always use her entire ass.

“Hearing a successful woman like Tina today, made me feel optimistic about my major and the fact she got her big break in her thirties. It just goes to show that she didn’t get what she wanted in the beginning but persevered enough to get the success later on.” said sophomore journalism major Gail Vivar.

It’s not often that huge celebrities like Tina Fey pay a visit to good ‘ole North Broad, which is why we’re so thankful that Temple University and the School of Media and Communication gave us the opportunity to have this experience.



Temple University, 2019. Magazine journalist and editor, fitness instructor, health and wellness enthusiast. Proponent of lists, Jesus, and the Oxford comma. Will do anything for an iced oatmilk latte. Follow my journey: Twitter + Instagram: @sarah_madaus
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