BURLINGTON, Vt., Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Ben Stein has declined an invitation to speak at the University of Vermont's spring graduation ceremony after some critics objected to his presence.
The economist, comedian and TV personality, who has publicly denounced the theory of evolution and supported the idea of intelligent design, was recently told the university wanted to give him an honorary degree at the commencement ceremony.
However, UVM President Dan Fogel told WPTZ-TV, Plattsburgh, N.Y., that Stein declined the invitation to accept the degree and give a speech after Fogel explained to him that some people were upset by his planned appearance.
"Commencement obviously is an occasion where we celebrate the achievements of our graduates and it should bring people together, it shouldn't present a speaker who divides the community amidst heated controversy," Fogel told the television station.
"We will identify another commencement speaker in the weeks ahead. In the future, I plan to use a more consultative process to identify commencement speakers," Fogel said. "In retrospect, I am sorry that I did not anticipate the breadth and intensity of the concerns expressed in this instance."
Stein is a graduate of Yale Law School, who served as a trial lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission and worked as a speechwriter for former U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
He is also known as the host of the game show "Win Ben Stein's Money" and for his scene-stealing role in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."