UT Knoxville, ’53
John Cullum is a two-time Tony Award winner, best known for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of Holling Vincoeur on television’s Northern Exposure. He also has appeared in major network shows including ER, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Mad Men, 30 Rock and Nurse Jackie.
Cullum attended Knoxville High School and graduated from UT Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in speech.
“It was extraordinary to me that the university did not have a theater at the time,” he says. Rehearsals took place in director Paul Soper’s classroom in Ayres Hall; shows were staged downtown in the Bijou Theatre.
“When I got to New York, it was very similar to what I’d gone through—four walls, no sets. It turned out that was the best training I could have had.”
Cullum also played on UT’s SEC championship tennis team, was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and was the highest-ranking student officer (colonel) in the ROTC.
He starred in more than 30 productions at UT and, in 2004, returned to star with his son, J.D. Cullum, in the Clarence Brown Theatre’s 30th anniversary production of The Dresser.
Cullum debuted on Broadway as Sir Dinandan in Camelot in 1960 and earned multiple Tony nominations and wins over his stage career.
In 2015, the American Theatre of Actors and The Araca Group renamed their largest off-Broadway venue, the theater at 54th Street in Manhattan, as the John Cullum Theater.
UT Knoxville Chancellor Bill Snyder presented Cullum with the Founder’s Day Medal in 1998. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2010 and given the Clarence Brown Theatre Artistic Excellence Award at the theater’s annual gala in 2015.
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus‘ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.