Ty Burrell, actor and Duck fan, is this year’s graduation speaker

May 24, 2021 - 2:03pm

When Ty Burrell, the award-winning actor and die-hard Duck fan, addresses the UO’s class of 2021 at next month’s commencement, he will have plenty of pearls of wisdom to dispense to the graduates.

“Success is one percent inspiration, 98 percent perspiration, two percent attention to detail.”

“Watch a sunrise at least once a day.”

“The most amazing things that can happen to a human being will happen to you, if you just lower your expectations.”

Those quips were spoken by Burrell’s alter ego, Phil Dunphy, the loving and bumbling father on ABC’s long-running hit show, “Modern Family.”

Burrell will be the keynote speaker at the June 12 commencement ceremony, which will feature both virtual and in-person elements, including the Grad Parade and a livestreamed stage procession on the Memorial Quad. Due to the pandemic, Burrell will speak to graduates virtually.

Burrell received eight consecutive Emmy nominations for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series and won twice during the 11-season run of “Modern Family,” which ended last year. He also won Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice awards for the role.

A native of Grants Pass, Burrell grew up rooting for the Ducks and would travel with his family to Eugene to attend Oregon games. He attended the UO in the late 1980s, studying theater, and got his first-ever acting role in a campus production of “Lysistrata.”

“I can remember the rush of going out on stage and feeling like I had a purpose,” Burrell told the UO Alumni Association newsletter in 2015. “It’s literally where I discovered I wanted to be an actor, and I’ll always be grateful to the University of Oregon for that.”

Burrell later transferred to Southern Oregon University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1993. He received a master’s degree in fine arts from Penn State University.

But Burrell remains deeply connected to the UO. He and his wife have established the Ty and Holly Burrell Scholarship in the Department of Theatre Arts. And he can be spotted in Ducks gear attending football games at Autzen as well as at big bowl games.

He made an appearance in Nike’s 2016 “Shout” commercial featuring Duck greats. He and the writers of “Modern Family” were able to slip in a few Oregon references during the series’ run, including a scene where he appears in a bathtub with live ducks. In the series finale, to the delight of Duck fans, Burrell’s son on the show, Luke Dunphy, announced he would be attending the University of Oregon.

In addition to his star turn on “Modern Family,” Burrell has acted on and off Broadway, appeared in numerous films, and currently can be heard as a series regular opposite Amy Poehler on Fox’s animated family comedy, “Duncanville.” Last year, he formed his own production company, Desert Whale Productions.

Burrell co-owns Bar-X and Beer Bar, a cocktail and beer garden, in Salt Lake City and The Eating Establishment, a diner in Park City, both in Utah. He is actively involved in Kids in the Spotlight which trains youth in foster programs and other under-served youth to create, write, cast and star in their own 10-minute short films.

During the pandemic, Burrell created the program “Tip Your Server” to raise money for restaurant employees in Salt Lake City who lost their jobs due to restaurant closures. Burrell and his wife donated $100,000 of their own funds to help ease the burden for the vulnerable members of the Salt Lake City community. 

By Tim Christie, University Communications