Tim Allen donned a Hillsdale sweat­shirt in his hit show “Home Improvement.” | Facebook

Hillsdale’s 169th com­mencement speaker is none other than comedian Tim Allen.

Provost Chris VanOrman announced the decision in an email on Jan. 14, after Pres­ident Larry Arnn hinted at the choice at the first annual senior class Legacy Board dinner the pre­vious evening.

 “We are pleased to announce that Tim Allen will address the class of 2021 during the College’s 169th com­mencement cer­emony on May 8,” the email read.

Allen, best known for his starring roles in the ABC sitcom “Home Improvement” and the ABC/FOX sitcom “Last Man Standing,” as well as both the “Toy Story” and “The Santa Clause” movie trilogies, has kept many Hillsdale stu­dents’ attention since a screenshot of Allen sporting a Hillsdale College sweat­shirt in an episode of “Home Improvement” resur­faced. A graduate of Western Michigan Uni­versity, Allen often wore Michigan college sweat­shirts on his TV show, which ran from 1991 – 1999. 

Senior Class Pres­ident Braden VanDyke said Allen was a popular choice in a survey of the senior class at the beginning of the fall semester, but it was Allen’s sense of humor that ulti­mately made the decision. 

“Among the chief reasons we decided to go towards this type of can­didate is that in a year really filled with divisive pol­itics, financial stresses, health con­cerns, and really general misery, we thought that Tim Allen pro­vides comic relief in the best way pos­sible,” VanDyke said. 

Born in Denver, Col­orado, Allen moved to Michigan as a young adult and went to college to study film in the western part of the state. Allen, whose full name is Timothy Allen Dick, began his comedy career when friends dared him to par­tic­ipate in a comedy night at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Detroit in the 1980s. 

“When we con­sidered him more deeply, we had a few things that really pushed us toward him as a can­didate. He has Michigan roots, above and beyond being the voice of Pure Michigan com­mer­cials,” VanDyke said.

One Hills­dalian is par­tic­u­larly excited about Allen’s pending visit to campus: Director of Tech­nical and Media Ser­vices Ted Matko. Matko’s col­lection of Buzz Lightyear figures spans every wall of his office in the TV studio on the first floor of the Knorr Student Center. 

Matko, whose daughter worked for Disney for several years, started col­lecting sou­venirs of Buzz Lightyear as a joke. While Matko calls himself “more a Buzz fan than a Tim fan,” he said he smiled as soon as he heard Allen was the selected speaker.

“If you go back and look at the list of speakers that have been our com­mencement speakers, they’ve been tied to the media, more intel­lectual or aca­demic, or political, like Clarence Thomas and Mitt Romney and so on,” Matko said. “This one could be more fun. I’m looking forward to this one, to see what he does.”

Matko, whose job involves man­aging most of Hillsdale College’s live-streamed events, from sports games to CCA lec­tures, National Lead­ership Sem­inars, and com­mence­ments, said he gen­erally avoids asking for autographs. 

“I have a per­sonal policy,” Matko said. “We deal with so many celebrities that I don’t bother them. If I have to do some­thing pro­fes­sionally with the micro­phone or instruct them, I do it. But I don’t bother them. I don’t go get auto­graphs, I don’t get my picture taken. But I thought to myself, I might have to make an exception for this one.”

Though Matko will watch the 2021 com­mencement address live from the control room, he said he hopes he’ll have an oppor­tunity to take a picture with Allen and get his favorite — and largest — action figure autographed. 

“I have to let others make that decision, but it would be sort of fun to get a picture down here with him,” Matko said. “I’m not crazy, so I’m not going to be hounding him. It’s just sort of inter­esting that he’ll be coming. I don’t know if he’ll see this and think I’m a weirdo or not.”

At the senior dinner,  at which the Legacy Board members announced the class of 2021’s senior class gift, Arnn took the podium at the end of the event to hint about the speaker selection by ref­er­encing one of Allen’s movies.

“This is neither the time nor the place to announce the com­mencement speaker. And I’m not going to,” Arnn said. “I’ll just say one thing: Ever seen ‘Galaxy Quest’?”

Later, Arnn told the Col­legian he was pleased with the choice of Allen as com­mencement speaker.

“People who do not like the movie ‘Galaxy Quest’ lack spirit and humor,” Arnn said. “People who do not like ‘The Santa Clause’ have hearts colder than the North Pole. Tim Allen, who asked me to say that he is deeply honored, looks forward to coming. He will give a great talk. Also funny.”