Versatile virtuoso Mandy Patinkin earns another ovation

Posted on Apr 4, 2016 in News

Mandy Patinkin

You might know Mandy Patinkin as CIA agent Saul Berenson in the award-wining Showtime TV series “Homeland,” Dr. Jeffrey Geiger from the CBS series “Chicago Hope,” or as the memorable Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride,” but we know him as a Jayhawk. As a KU  student, Patinkin, ’74, starred as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” and other University Theatre productions before leaving for The Juilliard School in New York City. Only a few years later, he won a Tony Award for his 1980 Broadway debut as Che in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.”

PMandy Patinkin  | photo by Earl Richardson, from Kansas Alumni magazineatinkin will add to his accolades April 16, when he is honored as one of three 2016 winners of the 37th annual Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service. Patinkin, who has earned acclaim for his performances in theatre, concerts, film, TV and as a recording artist, will receive the award for his lifetime achievement in the dramatic arts. The other honorees are Bob Schieffer, CBS journalist and former host of “Face the Nation,” for his achievements in mass communications; and Elizabeth Smart, a leading national advocate for child abduction rights and recovery, for her outstanding public service.

The Common Wealth Awards, for individuals who “enrich modern culture,” were first presented in 1979 by The Common Wealth Trust, created under the will of businessman and philanthropist Ralph Hayes. The awards are now made by The Ralph Hayes Common Wealth Foundation and are hosted by The PNC Financial Services Group. Past winners include several heads of state, 11 Nobel laureates, explorers, authors, performing artists and activists.

Patinkin last visited KU in 2005, when he taught students and helped raise funds for theatre scholarships and equipment. In an on-stage conversation with Jack Wright, professor of theatre and film, Patinkin wistfully recalled his role as Tevye, which was the last time his father saw him perform.

Patinkin has been known to mention Kansas on various TV talk shows through the years, including a February 2014 appearance on “Live with Kelly and Michael.” The show’s producers called on the Alumni Association to conspire in surprising Patinkin during the show. The Association helped locate his KU girlfriend, Leonore “Norie” Haines Hicks, d’73, who now lives in McKinney, Texas. The producers flew Hicks to New York for the show. Kelly and Michael first surprised Patinkin by introducing the woman who had shared a first kiss with him in junior high school. When he had recovered from that shock, they began to ask him about his college sweetheart. Patinkin lamented that he had not been able to find his long-lost love, Norie Haines, joking that he had even asked the FBI and CIA for help (perhaps through his “Homeland” connections?). The audience erupted in cheers and applause as Norie walked out from backstage, and the two reminisced about KU’s “Fiddler on the Roof” and their time in Lawrence.

Their hilarious conversation is worth viewing if you missed it two years ago. KU reunions are memorable, especially those captured for a national TV audience. Patinkin and Hicks still have chemistry after all these years, and her son is an amiable good sport.

Photo credits: top photo provided by PNC media relations; bottom photo by Earl Richardson for Kansas Alumni magazine, No. 3, 2005. 

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