Viggo Mortensen '80, Doctor of Arts | St. Lawrence University Commencement

Viggo Mortensen '80, Doctor of Arts

Viggo Mortensen, Class of 1980, has, though he would be the last to say so, “an infinite number of welcoming gifts that had lain waiting in the sun” for us to know. What he would say is that he has learned, in his life as poet, painter, photographer, activist and actor, that making things is a way of finding out. St. Lawrence University celebrates the gifts given to alumnus Viggo Mortensen, and even more important, celebrates his journey of creation.

Dennis Hopper says that Viggo Mortensen’s work comes from the right place - the subconscious. From that subconscious, he has enlivened characters in 40 films, establishing an international presence in the movie industry, with critical acclaim for his work and universal respect for his work ethic. He has published 16 books of his poems, photographs and paintings. He has produced 16 CDs of music and spoken word. He founded and supports Perceval Press, an independent enterprise that publishes art, words and music from people all over the world. He has spoken his beliefs about human rights, justice and peace with candor, and has acted on those beliefs in quiet yet transformative ways.

When he visited St. Lawrence University in 2003, he mounted an exhibition of his art, gave a poetry reading, hosted a showing of one of his films, visited faculty friends in the government department (where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree) and signed copies of his books for several hours, patiently, politely, and with sincere interest in the hundreds who attended. His visit then, and the honor St. Lawrence University offers him today, the degree Doctor of Arts, honoris causa, recognize that Viggo Mortensen lives his own adage: “In life, it’s the effort you make to try and understand [that] keeps you alive and open. It is more important to ask questions than to find answers.”