In a case of life imitating art, actor and comedian Ed Helms made his way to Cornell University Saturday. Helms played Andy Bernard on NBC's "The Office," a proud grad of the Ivy League School. Time Warner Cable News Reporter Sarah Blazonis sat down with Helms before he addressed seniors at this year's convocation.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Members of Cornell's Class of 2014 say it was never a question -- lifelong Big Red pride comes with the territory.
"I think it's so tough here that it's kind of like when you graduate, it's like, 'We made it,'" said Stephen Breedon, a hotel administration major who's graduating Sunday.
"Everyone loves Cornell. You know, there are hard times, and there's a lot of hard classes, but in the end, it's our alma mater," said architecture major Mary Bray Erickson.
But one of the school's proudest alums never actually set foot on campus, until Saturday.
"I can see it in your faces: excited, full of hope, and blissfully unaware that you will be paying off high interest student loans well into your sixties," Ed Helms told about 5,500 members of the senior class Saturday.
Students chose Helms to speak at this year's convocation. His "Office" alter ego, Andy Bernard, took his alma mater very seriously.
And while convocation marked Helms' first official visit to Cornell, he says in a way, it felt like a homecoming.
"I had Cornell paraphernalia all over the set of 'The Office,' so I don't know if it was just sort of osmosis over time or it just got pounded into me, but I feel a tremendous amount of affection for this place," said Helms.
And some of the advice Helms offered is also related to that "Office" experience. He told grads being a "fool" like his character appeared to be isn't always a bad thing. While it may seem foolish to risk failure, work hard with no direct goal in sight, or make deliberately scary decisions, he says it's those real-life experiences that led him to success. One example: he left steady work on "The Daily Show" to play Andy, originally, just scheduled for an eight-episode arc.
"I don't think that there's any piece of advice that is going to change someone's life coming out of college," said Helms. "The best you can hope for is just to feel inspired."
And students say that real-life inspiration earns Helms a place next to his TV counterpart in the hearts of Big Red-faithful.
Ed Helms is the first comedian to speak at Cornell's convocation. A member of the student committee that chose the speaker says they wanted to take a different direction than past years, but still keep that Cornell connection.