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J.K. Simmons became the first University of Montana alum to win an Oscar for acting on Sunday night.

The 1978 graduate was named best supporting actor for his performance in "Whiplash" at the 87th annual Academy Awards, held in Los Angeles.

Simmons' ferocious portrayal of a jazz band instructor at a music conservatory accumulated numerous accolades over the awards season, including the Golden Globe, leading to Sunday's win, which is his first Academy Award.

Simmons beat out marquee names for his Oscar, including Robert Duvall in "The Judge," Ethan Hawke in "Boyhood," Edward Norton of "Birdman," and Mark Ruffalo for "Foxcatcher."

The last native Montanan to win an Oscar for acting was Gary Cooper for 1952's "High Noon."

In his acceptance speech, Simmons thanked his wife, Michelle Schumacher, and his two children.

He also thanked his parents Don and Pat Simmons, two prominent, longtime members of the Missoula community who passed away in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

"Call your mom, call your dad," Simmons told the audience. "If you're lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call 'em. Don't text, don't email. Call them on the phone. Tell them you love them and thank them and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you. Thank you. Thank you, Mom and Dad."


Simmons, 60, grew up in the Midwest in Ohio and Michigan.

When his father Don was hired to chair the music department at the University of Montana in 1973, J.K. – short for Jonathan Kimble – transferred to Missoula.

He studied voice, not acting, and finished his degree in 1978.

A job at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse led him into acting, and he's credited his experiences there as formative.

He later moved to Seattle, the nearest big city, to pursue theater, and eventually made his way to Broadway.

He's had succession of memorable supporting roles in films small and large, dramatic and humorous.

He played the father of the titular character in the indie teen pregnancy comedy "Juno," a tabloid newspaper editor in the "Spider-Man" films, and a psychiatrist on the TV series "Law and Order."

He's currently shooting a thriller with Ben Affleck called "The Accountant," and has roles in the upcoming "Terminator" and "King Kong" sequels.

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