Schenectady County

Jimmy Fallon to get degree started in ’90s at St. Rose commencement

Jimmy Fallon made a life-altering decision just one semester before he was to graduate from college.
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Jimmy Fallon made a life-altering decision just one semester before he was to graduate from college.

He initially enrolled at the College of Saint Rose as a computer science major. But when the program became too difficult, he switched his studies to communications.

“I made it up to C++. Then I couldn’t do the math — it got really confusing,” he said in a December video blog entry posted on NBC’s Web site. “I switched to communications, which is a ridiculous major — let’s be honest.”

Fallon’s indifference to his course of study culminated in a meeting with his adviser during the fall semester of 1995. With just 15 credits remaining for a bachelor’s degree, he informed the college of his plans to drop out and make a go at show business in Los Angeles.

“He was very firm about it,” recalled Fred Antico, the chairman of the communications department at Saint Rose, who taught Fallon’s television production class. “He wanted to do this despite our urging.”

And in the end, it paid off. Fallon now has his own late-night talk show on NBC, was a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and has appeared in nearly a dozen major motion pictures.

Now Fallon’s work in the entertainment industry will earn him what he’s been lacking for so many years: a college degree. Saint Rose will confer a bachelor of arts degree during the college’s graduation ceremonies at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center at 10 a.m. today.

Unlike an honorary degree — which Fallon will also receive as a keynote speaker — the college cannot confer earned diplomas. To receive the academic honor, Fallon needed to present a portfolio to Saint Rose showing that he had learned the college’s core curriculum through his real-life experience.

“Students can earn college credit through experiential learning,” Antico said. “And over 12 or 13 years, he had actually accomplished a good body of work.”

Saint Rose had written to Fallon about earning his degree five years ago, but he never responded. They made another try this year and he agreed to gather a portfolio, which Antico reviewed in New York City earlier this year.

“He had acquired a great insight in how things work,” he said of the portfolio.

Not that it was any surprise to anyone at the college. Even as an undergrad, Fallon had a strong desire for success in comedy.

Before dropping out, he and two other students produced a sitcom pilot called “40 Whacks.” The professional-looking skits were filmed in the students’ free time and offered a glimpse at Fallon’s future fame.

“I looked at that and it’s got some real genuine laughs in that,” Antico said.

Waterford resident Ron Mattice recalled meeting Fallon while he was helping classmate Mike Goudreau produce the pilot in 1995. The sketches were a blend of comedy that closely mirrored the humor of “Saturday Night Live.”

Ironically, Mattice didn’t consider Fallon one of the funnier actors in “40 Whacks.” However, he did recognize the future star as someone with a penchant to achieve.

“He was the most driven,” he said, “Jimmy was always on. I was fairly confident he was going to be successful.”

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