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Some object as Ron Burgundy brings laughs to Emerson

Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, with Emerson College president Lee Pelton, answered questions at a news conference at the school.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Whatever the publicity budget is for “Anchorman 2,” it’s enough.

The hype machine that is Will Ferrell’s new movie descended upon Emerson College Wednesday as the school renamed its college of communication — for one day — in honor of the film’s fictional news anchor, Ron Burgundy. Not everyone was laughing, however, as some thought there was little benefit to the school by shilling for a big-budget Hollywood movie.

“I’m literally in a glass case of emotion right now,” Ferrell’s alter ego said with mock elation after being introduced by Phil Glenn, Emerson’s interim dean of communication.

Speaking to students and fellow media members, Burgundy stressed the importance of good hair and hygiene while pursuing a career in journalism. Having no formal training himself beyond graduating from “Our Lady Queen of Chewbacca High School,” Burgundy had little wisdom to share with aspiring journalists.


Ferrell hugged Phil Glenn, interim dean of Emerson’s School of Communication.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Wendy Maeda

“If it’s too hard to find the facts, make something up,” he said, taking a page from the Stephen Glass playbook.

But the ever-humble Burgundy did share a few of his secrets to being awesome.

“I do a lot of yoga [pronounced yo-JAH], I read ‘The Secret,’ and I use a little HGH under each armpit,” he said.

We’re told Wednesday’s event was the idea of Emerson alum Matt Labov, who happens to be Ferrell’s publicist, and that Emerson President Lee Pelton was happy to play along.

“It’s created a lot of excitement on campus,” a school spokesperson told us. “It’s all in good fun.”

Call them fuddy-duddies, but critics questioned whether the school’s name should be used to promote a movie that is already the subject of an intense ad campaign.

“I was opposed to it from the start,” said Mark Leccese , an assistant professor of journalism. “I don’t see what the college gets out of it, other than having its name in the media for a day. I don’t see this Hollywood publicity stunt [enhancing] the reputation of Emerson’s School of Communication.” (An Emerson official told us the school, in fact, got nothing in return — at least financially.)


Leccese’s unease was echoed by fellow journalism professor Emmanuel Paraschos.

“We get calls from colleagues around the country asking us if we lost our minds,” said Paraschos. “My college roommate called me and said, ‘What are you people smoking?’ ”

Doug Struck, the department’s associate chair, said he’s reserving judgment.

“My students tell me Will Ferrell is funny,” he said. “They also tell me they have done their course work. I am skeptical on both accounts.”

In an interview afterward, Ferrell said he understands the criticism, but thinks the publicity is good for Emerson. Still, he did wonder if Pelton was thinking, “Why did we do this?” as they stood together on stage Wednesday.

But Emerson sophomore Ariana Colozzo, like many of her classmates, didn’t feel the school was compromising its integrity, saying, “Emerson has a big theater and film program, and [Ferrell] is a huge actor.” Likewise, sophomore Madelyn Abry said Burgundy’s visit reflects only positively on the school.

Fox 25 anchor Gene Lavanchy was there Wednesday, and had just one thing to say to traditionalists who would criticize Emerson for honoring Burgundy. Quoting Bill Murray in “Stripes,” Lavanchy said: “Lighten up, Francis.”

Globe correspondents John King, Stephanie Hiltz, and Vanessa Fernandes contributed. Mark Shanahan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MeredithGoldste.