Class of 2015, Martin Sheen join UD alumni family

By: Amanda Dee – Online Editor-in-Chief

Ramon Estevez, or Martin Sheen, joined the University of Dayton graduating class of 2015 on the UD Arena Jumbotron screens Sunday.

Sheen has spent his life in front of screens, whether he was “acting president” or “former acting president,” as he referred to his identities during and after his run on “The West Wing.”

Although the cameras were on him longer than the 1,441 graduating students, Sheen said in the interview after his speech that everyone will only be remembered for about five minutes. “Except by those that you love and that really miss you,” he continued. “Then you can be remembered for more than five minutes.”

Some of the ones he talked about for more than five minutes were in the arena with him. One of them couldn’t be, but he was what Sunday was about for Sheen.

A Catholic Spanish immigrant who settled a few blocks away from UD, Sheen’s father, Francisco, supported a family of an Irish immigrant wife and 10 children on no more than $147 a week working at the National Cash Register. On that income, his father set aside money every week to save for tuition to attend UD, Sheen said in the interview after his speech.

“My father… I’m sorry,” he paused. “He just resurfaced in a deeply personal way.”

The night before, Sheen and his four other remaining siblings had a family reunion, and “family is always deeply personal,” he said.

Despite purposefully flunking his UD entrance exam to follow his acting passion to New York City, the university community is also “deeply personal” to Sheen.  Part of that is his father. Part of it is his siblings who attended the university. Part of it is his Catholic education (including the nuns who refused to accept “being below the poverty line” as an excuse for anything).

One of the preceding speakers welcomed the 2015 class to “the UD family,” the community that expands, and keeps expanding, beyond campus. For Sheen, family is a “part” and a “reflection” of who you are. It’s about “truth,” “the holy truth” and “nothing but the truth.” As UD President Daniel Curran said in his speech, it isn’t just about your reactions to the good days.

It’s about looking at “the negative things in society that are often too difficult to look at, too difficult to change” and not being “the individual who doesn’t care,” Curran continued.

A family, which “is not always identifiable,” is made up of the ones that know “your dishonesty,” Sheen said in the interview. “They know your brokenness. Your ego.” But they’re also a source of “confidence,” “a light.”

“That’s what families are,” Sheen said. “They take you and hug you and hold you and nourish you no matter what you’ve done or not done and you’re always going to be a part of that.”

Click here for Martin Sheen’s commencement speech and keep checking @FlyerNews on Twitter and Flyer News on Facebook for video of Sheen’s exclusive media interview.