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John Ratzenberger is 2014 Lehigh Valley commencement speaker

John Ratzenberger
2/11/2014 —

John Ratzenberger, Emmy-nominated actor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, will be the featured speaker at Penn State Lehigh Valley's 2014 commencement ceremony to be held on May 10, at 11 a.m. at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem.

Ratzenberger is best known for playing mail carrier "Cliff Clavin" on the sitcom "Cheers." After reading for the part of "Norm Peterson" during the audition, he could tell he wasn’t going to get the part. Sensing an opportunity, he asked if there was a part for a bar know-it-all—which the producers decided was a great idea. "Cliff" became known for his outlandish stories of plausible half-truths, irrelevant trivia, and ignorant misinformation, as well as "Norm’s" iconic bar buddy.

Ratzenberger's work for Pixar, as well as his parts in "Superman" and "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," makes him the sixth most successful actor of all time, as measured by a total box office of over $3,000,000,000.

He has had a voice part in all of Pixar's feature films made to date. His roles include "Hamm" the Piggy Bank in "Toy Story," "Toy Story 2," and "Toy Story 3;" "P.T. Flea" the circus ring leader in "A Bug's Life;" "The Abominable Snowman" in "Monsters, Inc.;" a school of moonfish in "Finding Nemo;" "The Underminer" in "The Incredibles;" "Mack" the truck in "Cars" and "Cars 2;" "Mustafa" the waiter in "Ratatouille;" "John" in "WALL-E;" "Tom" the construction worker in "Up;" and "Gordon" in "Brave."

His newest project as a spokesperson for M.O.S.T (Mobile Outreach Skills Training) has given him the opportunity to speak to citizens around the country and give the unemployed a call to action. M.O.S.T is a fast-track program that prepares unemployed and underemployed individuals for frontline production jobs. He has appeared in television interviews with FOX Business Network, FOX News Channel, and MSNBC among many others to discuss his role with the only organization in the country guaranteeing employment to its graduates.

John Ratzenberger is currently in pre-production on a new documentary, the purpose of which is to awaken Americans to the shortage of skilled workers that threatens our country as a whole.

Ratzenberger was a house framer living in London when he began his career in the performing arts. His first role was as a patron in The Ritz. He appeared in minor roles in movies including "Firefox;" "A Bridge Too Far;" "Superman," as a missile controller; "Superman II," as the NASA control man; "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," as "Major Bren Derlin"; "Motel Hell," as a punk rocker; "Outland," as a doomed mine worker named "Tarlow"; and "Gandhi," playing an American Lieutenant.

He also voiced the bathhouse's assistant manager, "Ao-gaeru," in the English version of "Spirited Away," a film whose U.S. executive producer was Pixar's John Lasseter. Ratzenberger had the chance to poke fun at his tenure at Pixar during the end credits of "Cars," where his character, "Mack," watches car-themed versions of Pixar movies ("Toy Car Story," "Monster Trucks, Inc.," and "A Bug's Life") and notes that all the characters Ratzenberger played were excellent, until he realizes that they're all played by the same actor, at which point he remarks, "They're just using the same actor over and over. What kind of cut-rate production is this?"

Ratzenberger produced and hosted "Made in America," a show for the Travel Channel, which established a television precedent and led the way for a new series of shows including "Dirty Jobs," "Deadliest Catch," "Ice Road Truckers," and others. These shows celebrate the work ethic that built America. He co-authored "We’ve Got It Made in America: A Common Man’s Salute to an Uncommon Country."

For more information, contact Allison Goodin at 610-285-5067 or email aag18@psu.edu.

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