by Olivia Morrison
WHS alum Mr. Thomas Ucciferri has traveled the world capturing major events and adding to, what he likes to call, his “bag of credentials.” Currently the acting stage manager for Late Night With Seth Meyers, Ucciferri has achieved what only some people could dream of. But this wasn’t the career path that he had intended to choose.
In 1968, Ucciferri moved with his family to Westfield. Throughout his time as a high school student, he excelled in the maths and sciences and devoted most, if not all, of his time to said subjects.
In fact, he did so well that after graduation, Ucciferri went on to attend Rutgers University as a student in its pre-med program.
However, during his freshman year, he realized that he had bit off more than he could chew and he was unhappy. It wasn’t long before Ucciferri, who had always been a highly motivated and intelligent student in high school, dropped out of college.
And after taking a brief hiatus from school to collect himself, he enrolled at Kean University (then Kean College), this time as a communications and television production major.
“Honestly, I was always more artistic; I loved to draw, I loved to paint, and I loved to make movies when I was in high school,” said Ucciferri in a recent talk and interview at the Westfield Memorial Library. “I just never pursued it seriously because I always saw myself going into something more math- and science-related.”
After attending Kean, Ucciferri got a job as a carpenter in a scenic shop within a television studio. It was there that he was able to learn about what goes on behind the scenes of a TV show and how to work with professional cameras, lighting and audio equipment, which came easily to him because of his math and science skills.
Eventually, Ucciferri was able to go out and work in television production on a freelance basis, where he met people from all walks of life.
Today, in Ucciferri’s role on Late Night, he is responsible for getting people and things exactly where they need to be, at exactly the time they need to be there, which can often be a time crunch. “Luckily, everything is taped so if something goes terribly wrong or Seth says something that falls flat or comes across badly, we can redo it,” said Ucciferri. “But for the most part, we don’t and if Seth fumbles on some lines it still ends up on the final tape.”
He also runs rehearsals, briefs guests before they go on stage and when he isn’t wearing a headset and running around the set, he has appeared in a few sketches, one of which he starred in himself.
So when you think of a successful person, what comes to mind? Is it a doctor, a lawyer or maybe an engineer of some sort?
Success is very much a subjective concept, but it is apparent that WHS students specifically view success as pertaining solely to those who become professionals in traditional fields like math and science.
According to Ucciferri, being the best student in the most competitive field of study is “not always the most important thing in life.”
So if you ever start to crumble under the pressure to do something you aren’t happy in, think of Thomas Ucciferri: a man who changed direction in life and chose a career because he “just thought it looked like fun.”