Yes, that's Sam Elliott's voice in Clark spots

Actor, a 1965 grad, can be heard on TV commercials for fundraising campaign

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 
photoSam Elliott as a 1965 Clark College graduate.

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photoPam Waugh, queen of Clark College's May Fete Dance, with Sam Elliott in a photograph from the 1964 Galapagan yearbook.

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Did You Know?

Sam Elliott, whose voice is featured in Smokey Bear television spots, shares the bear’s birth date. Elliott was born on Aug. 9, 1944. According to smokeybear.com: “Smokey Bear was born on August 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear named Smokey would be the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention.”

After speaking on behalf of pickup trucks, beer and Smokey Bear, actor and Clark alumnus Sam Elliott is lending his distinctive voice to Clark College.

The 1965 Clark College graduate has provided the baritone punch line for a series of television commercials supporting the college's fundraising campaign.

Elliott doesn't appear on screen in the commercials; his name isn't credited when Elliott is delivering his tag line.

"We do not identify him in the commercial," said foundation spokeswoman Rhonda Morin, who noted that Elliott's voice pretty much speaks for itself.

The first in the series of eight commercials is scheduled to start airing today on Portland's KATU, Channel 2, and KGW, Channel 8.

The 15- and 30-second commercials are being produced by the nonprofit Clark College Foundation, which raises funds to support the school's students and programs.

The commercials are intended "to heighten awareness of Clark College in the community," Morin said.

Clark College is staging a $20 million fundraising campaign called "Ensuring a Bright Future: Campaign for Clark College."

The campaign's title provides part of Elliott's script. His message: "Support the campaign for Clark College, ensuring a bright future."

Those words weren't his only contribution to the campaign, by the way. Elliott also made what the foundation described as "a generous donation to the fundraising effort."

A foundation news release said that Elliott "has fond memories of his alma mater and recalls receiving 'great support' from Clark's faculty."

Elliott enrolled in Clark College after graduating from David Douglas High School in Portland. While earning his associate's degree at Clark College, he was on the Penguins track team. Elliott also landed one of the lead roles in the campus production of "Guys and Dolls," according to Columbian accounts, which might have fueled his acting ambitions.

Within four years, Elliott had a role in the biggest-grossing film of 1969: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Not that it was a starring role. The film's credits list Elliott as "Card Player No. 2." (That was 16 slots in the credits behind Katharine Ross, whom Elliott married in 1984.)

In addition to a lengthy résumé of film and TV roles, Elliott has become a notable voice-over talent. The U.S. Forest Service launched a series of "Smokey Bear" public service announcements a few years ago, featuring Elliott's distinctive drawl.

More recently, Elliott's voice has been featured in Ram truck commercials filmed in Bingen and other Columbia Gorge locations. (Go to http://bit.ly/15GXgrX for our story.)

"We've always been interested in connecting with him," said Morin, the foundation spokeswoman. "Things happened to fall in place."

In a news release, Clark College Foundation President and CEO Lisa Gibert said that Elliott's "powerful and familiar voice will help us raise awareness of what Clark College offers."

Gibert continued: "With $2 million left to go in our fundraising effort, our hope is that Mr. Elliott's connection to Clark will encourage others to offer their generosity -- as he has -- in support of student learning."

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.