Five Ducks have a chance to collect Oscars on awards night

Billboard with Oscar statuettes

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional Ducks who have been nominated for Academy Awards.)

Five Ducks will be anxiously waiting for the envelopes to open at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.

Jeff Whitty, Skye Fitzgerald, Sam Elliott and Shoshana and Steven Ungerleider have each been nominated for an Oscar, and each has taken different paths to the awards ceremony, which will be broadcast at 5 p.m. on ABC.

Whitty is nominated for best adapted screenplay for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” with co-writer Nicole Holofcener. Based on a true story, the movie is about a struggling writer named Lee Israel, played by Melissa McCarthy, who began forging letters from famous writers and selling them to collectors.

Whitty, a playwright, actor and screenwriter, graduated from the UO in 1993 with a bachelor of arts degree in English. A Coos Bay native, he won a Tony Award for best book of a musical for his work on “Avenue Q” in 2004.

Fitzgerald received a master of fine arts in theater arts from the UO in 1997. He and fellow producer Bryn Mooser were nominated for best documentary short for “Lifeboat,” which chronicles the work of the nonprofit Sea-Watch as it helps refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe.

Fitzgerald, a Portland resident, has been making films that explore complex issues of human rights and social issue on a global scale for nearly 20 years, according to his IMDB page.

In addition, another Duck, Bill Campbell, a music professor at St. Ambrose University, wrote the music for “Lifeboat” and plans to attend the Oscars ceremony, he told the Quad City Times of Iowa. Campbell earned his doctorate from the UO.

Actor Sam Elliott, owner of what Rolling Stone magazine once called “the world’s greatest living mustache,” has been acting in films and television since the mid 1960s, often in Westerns. He’s been nominated for best actor in a supporting role for “A Star is Born.”

Elliott is a California native who as a teenager moved with his family to Portland. He was a top high school hurdler and enrolled at the UO in 1962 to run for Bill Bowerman’s vaunted track and field program. He planned to study English and psychology, but it didn’t work out, according to a 2017 profile in the Register-Guard.

“I had visions of being a ‘Man of Oregon’ but didn’t have what it took and was not ever academically inclined,” Elliott told the newspaper. “I came down here and (messed) around and got booted out.”

He stayed just two terms at Oregon before dropping out. He earned a two-year degree at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, and then re-enrolled at the UO hoping to get his four-year degree but again stopped short.

He and his wife, actor Katharine Ross, live part time in Linn County, near Brownsville, north of Eugene.

The Ungerleiders are executive producers of "End Game," nominated for best documentary short. The movie shows how medical professionals and social workers at a hospice program in San Francisco help patients and families with end-of-life care.

Shoshana Ungerleider, an internal medical physician at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, earned a bachelor's degree in 2003 from the UO in general science. She co-founded the non-profit End Well, an organization that focuses on quality end-of-life care. Her father, Steven Ungerleider, earned a master's degree in counseling in 1973 and a doctor in 1978 in counseling psychology from the UO. He's a sports psychologist and author in Eugene. 

By Tim Christie, University Communications