Curtis Armstrong donates acting memorabilia to library archives: The alum visited classes on campus and reminisced at evening event

Laurel Kraus, Managing Editor

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Back in 1975, the now defunct Academy of Dramatic Art at Oakland University taught its graduates the difference between a 16th Century bow and an 19th Century bow, and then sent them off into the world to act…  in the cult-classic “Revenge of the Nerds” as a character named Booger.

Pointing out this irony in his book “Revenge of the Nerd: Or… The Singular Adventures of the Man Who Would Be Booger,” actor Curtis Armstrong visited campus in 2017, while researching for this memoir, where the idea of donating his extensive collection was first born.

“Dominique Daniel [coordinator of Archives and Special Collections at OU] was the one who said ‘… would you consider donating your archive to this?’ and the interesting thing was, at that moment, it was the first time I had ever thought of what I had as an archive,” Armstrong said. “I kind of thought it was boxes of stuff that eventually I was going to have to get rid of, but it’s hard to throw away 40 years of your life.”

Likely more recognizable to OU students as Principal Foster in “New Girl” or Metatron in “Supernatural,” Armstrong has cultivated a four-decade-long acting career since his time as a student at OU.

On Thursday, Feb. 7, he returned to campus, following 17 boxes filled with original scripts, behind-the-scenes photos, character biographies, acting contracts, a nomination for a Daytime Emmy Award and so much more, to be archived in Kresge Library and available to aid acting students in their endeavors.

“This place added a lot to my life and in a sense, I feel like I want to just keep giving back to it, and these are all circles that close,” Armstrong said. “It’s like realizing that all of the circles, which we all have in our lives, all of mine seem to be here at Oakland University, which really surprises me because you spend a couple years at a university, you take away from it what you can, but you don’t expect it to keep popping up in your experience and it does.”

Among this collection is Armstrong’s own fourth-draft original script of “Risky Business” from 1982, which was placed on display during ‘An Evening With Curtis Armstrong’ where members of the OU community came to hear the alum reminisce on his career, including time spent at Oakland and Meadow Brook Theatre, answer audience questions, and host a book signing.

“It is rare to host a speaker who has affected pop culture in such a way that Curtis Armstrong has, and it is rarer still to be able to recognize him as one of our own,” said Erin Sudrovech, director of Alumni Engagement.

The audience of around 400 spent much of the evening in laughter as Armstrong chronicled his unconventional career path including his first on-screen performance in an OU orientation video, his passion for Sherlock Holmes and the similar role he ended up embodying in many of the ‘80s films that set the pace for his career.

Despite his original dream of stage acting, and more than a few successful years of doing so, Armstrong had quickly found himself typecast as the offbeat best friend alongside powerful lead actors including Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis and John Cusack, often who were largely still undiscovered at the time.

“Something that I’m struck by watching your [Armstrong] character’s performances in these films, is that those characters are the human element that allow us, as an audience, access to the lives of these protagonists who otherwise are superheroes to us,” said Brendan Kredell, moderator of the evening and professor of cinema studies. “That’s where I see myself when I watch these movies, is through the perspective that you’re offering.”

One of the surprise highlights of the night, particularly for Armstrong himself, was the reveal that Peggy Metzger, his old speech teacher from Berkley High School, whom he had just been praising, was in the audience.

“I cannot believe it,” the actor exclaimed as he ran off the stage to hug her.

The audience was also treated to a glimpse into that very speech class by Armstrong’s high school friend Dave Stroud, who told the story of “Dummy and Stroud” in which Armstrong would paint lines on either side of his mouth to appear like a dummy, sit on Stroud’s knee and entertain the class with comedy skits.

The event, originally scheduled from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., ended up going significantly further into the night when the book signing portion turned into a free invitation for every attendee to get a personalized autograph and photo with the actor.

“It sounds like something everybody always says… the truth is it’s an honor, and I’m really glad to be here,” Armstrong said. “It’s a very familiar and yet changed place, and it’s nice to be back here after all these years.”

Armstrong can currently be seen in the YouTube Red series “Champaign ILL,” on the second season of SyFy’s “Happy!” premiering on Mar. 27, and in a new DC Comics show “Doom Patrol” which is filming now.