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Emerson Runs in Actor Will Arnett’s Family

Will Arnett and Emerson James Arnett stand at a ceremony for Will's introduction into the Canada Walk of Fame.
Will Emerson Arnett with his father Emerson James Arnett when Will was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame on November 25, 2019.

Random fact about BoJack Horseman star Will Arnett – his middle name is Emerson. And while his parents didn’t attend Emerson, nor did he, there is an Emerson College connection.

Photo of Laura Vivian Belvadere Arnett
Laura Vivian Belvadere Arnett

The Arrested Development star’s great-grandmother attended Emerson back in 1902-03, when it was called Emerson College of Oratory. Laura Vivian Belvadere Todd matriculated at Emerson for a mere year. But that lone year left a lasting impact on her, and generations of her family.

Before getting into the particulars, it’s important to note the remarkableness of Todd’s path to Boston. In 1901, she lived in the small city of Brandon, Manitoba, in western Canada, which only had 5,000-plus inhabitants . Boston is 1,961 miles far, far away from home. Today, that’s an estimated 29-hour drive.

As a girl she developed a keen interest in music and drama, she stated in a newspaper interview several years before her death in 1984 at the age of 105. She sent away for information from different colleges, and her mother was flabbergasted she wanted to go to Emerson. They were also a family of limited means. But somehow, they scraped the resources together and she made her way east.

She would go on to be an author of poetry.

Hand written poem by Laura Vivian Belvadere Arnett
Hand-written poem by Laura Vivian Belvadere Arnett
Hand written poem by Laura Vivian Belvadere Arnett

In 1903, she returned to Brandon and married Jonathan Hughes Arnett. She did not return to Emerson as a student. They had five children, including Emerson Lloyd Arnett, who named his son Emerson James Arnett, who named his son William Emerson Arnett, who would go on to star as Batman in The Lego Movie.

“As to why Emerson College was so important to her, I wish I’d asked her!” says her grandson Emerson James (Jim) Arnett, who attended Harvard in the early 1960s and made a point to visit Emerson College. “But just guessing, she came from, and returned to, a life of limited means on the spare Canadian prairies and the rich cultural world of Boston and the college must have remained a dream.”

Her main interest at Emerson was drama, along with music and “physical culture,” and she and a female friend did a round of all the old churches in Boston. They visited the famous “Mother Church” and asked to see Mary Baker Eddy, but were told Eddy was not present, said Arnett.

“As to the naming of my father (Emerson Lloyd Arnett) she simply said, ‘I chose to name him’ after ‘the President of my college, Dr. Chas. Wesley Emerson’ and ‘my favorite author, Ralph Waldo Emerson’,” said Arnett.

The images in this article are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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