Professor’s son wins Oscar, dedicates moment to her

“La La Land” lyricist Benj Pasek honors his mother, Professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, in his acceptance speech on Sunday at the Oscar’s.

When Benj Pasek was growing up, he quit a soccer league to focus on a school musical. On Sunday, he received an Oscar for “City of Stars” — a song he co-wrote for the film “La La Land.”

“This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain and all the moms who let them,” Pasek said during his acceptance speech. “Thank you very much. I love you Mom.”

The camera switched to show Kathy Hirsh-Pasek — a psychology professor at Temple and Pasek’s mother — who was standing and cheering.

“[It felt] pretty remarkable, to be honest,” Hirsh-Pasek told The Temple News. “I was the only one in the family who apparently didn’t know this was going to happen, so it was a complete and utter surprise.”

“City of Stars” won Best Original Song and was sung by La La Land’s lead actors Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Pasek , a Delaware County native, and Justin Paul wrote the lyrics for the song, while Justin Hurwitz wrote the music. The team also produced “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” another song in the film that was nominated for an Academy Award in the same category. The film, overall, was nominated 14 times and won in six categories on Sunday.

Hirsh-Pasek traveled to Los Angeles to support her son and attended the Oscars as his “date,” Pasek said during his acceptance speech. While there, she got to meet Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and formerly starred in “Hamilton” — a Broadway musical that won 11 Tony Awards in 2016, including Best Musical.

Miranda lost to Pasek in the Best Original Song category. He was nominated for his song “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s film “Moana.”

Miranda posted a picture with Hirsh-Pasek at the Oscars on his Twitter for 1.3 million followers, with the caption “Seriously, @benjpasek’s mom, thanks for letting him do the school musical, we are all better for it.” More than 9,000 people “liked” the Tweet, and about 700 retweeted it.

“He was such a delightful, talented, wonderful man and it really was an honor to meet him,” Hirsh-Pasek said.

Hirsh-Pasek is back at Temple this week, but said she enjoyed her experience at the Oscars.

“It was an out-of-body-experience,” Hirsh-Pasek added. “I am so proud, so thrilled and so happy for my kid.”

Taylor Horn can be reached at

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