The 86th commencement for graduating seniors of The New England School of Art & Design took place on a sunny 20th of May, beginning with a brunch and ending with Suffolk’s University-wide ceremonies at the Bank of America Pavilion on the waterfront.
For only the second time in his 41 years at NESADSU, Chairman Bill Davis was unable to take part in graduation ceremonies, including the traditional NESADSU brunch at Boston’s Four Seasons Hotel. The last time, in 2000, he was recovering from cancer surgery (and he’s still cancer-free); this time it was Bill’s wife, Patty, who was undergoing medical treatment, though she too is on her way to recovery.
Director of Administrative Services Sara Chadwick took over for Bill, acting as host and keeping things moving along. After brief remarks on the state of the school (“But nothing really ever holds NESADSU back”), and mentioning the new BFA program in Illustration and the new MFA in Interior Architecture, she offered congratulations to the graduates and those families and friends in attendance.
After a French toast brunch with all the trimmings, Sara introduced the faculty and staff present, before calling Fine Arts Program Director Audrey Goldstein to the podium. Audrey, in her own 32 years at NESADSU, has polished and refined her own program until it resembles the title of her students’ Thesis Exhibition: Lead to Gold, Pb to AU. As she said, “By doing so [naming their exhibition by that title], they referenced both the ancient art of discovery and the process of uncovering riches; the alchemical pathways that each student takes as they move toward responsibility and ownership; the magical occurrence between art and viewer; art that changes us, challenges us, and gives us the opportunity to question our normally cozy views.”
Audrey was followed by Graphic Design Program Director Laura Golly, who spoke as always off the cuff and from the heart, congratulating her graduating seniors for the impressive way they worked together during the preceding years and for their supportive attitude toward each other. Referencing students by name, she complimented one on her curious mind and her development as a “thinking graphic designer”; another on her turning a liability, not being able initially to decide on a major program, into a strength, by combining interests in provocative design solutions. She cited another for his helpfulness in assisting a faculty member with debuggng a website, and yet another for lending a hand and proferring advice to others without being asked. She also urged her graduates to stay in touch with her and with each other and to maintain the networks they’ve established, encouraging them also to pass along to the next class any internship opportunities they may be able to offer through their own workplaces.
In Nancy Hackett’s absence (she was heading to Suffolk’s Madrid campus with a group of summer students), Interior Design Co-Program Director called faculty member Mark Brus to join her on stage, before turning speaking duties over to him. Mark’s comments, thoughtful as ever, captivated the audience. He praised his students for choosing senior studio projects “that demonstrated an eagerness to address important social and environmental issues: an awareness of the importance of community, of compassion for others and concern for the environment”. Having quoted from some of his favorite architects and writers, he moved toward Hollywood, covering Lennon and Marx (“…don’t be nervous – I’m not becoming political here – I don’t mean Vladimir and Karl, the Bolshevik and Socialist; I mean John and Groucho, the musician and the comedian”). Thence to Judy Garland (“I’d rather be a good copy of myself that a bad copy of someone else”), George Burns (“I’d rather be a failure doing something that I love, than be a success doing something I hate”) and Duke Ellington (“There are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music”). Boiled down, he summarized these words of advice: “First, be the best yourself you can possibly be. Second: It’s better to fail being who you are than succeed being who you’re not. Third: There are only two kinds of design: right design and wrong design. Make sure you get it right, even if it’s not perfect.” Not bad advice for a roomful of freshly-minted college graduates.
Following Mark was the less scripted Josh Peters, NESADSU’s front desk receptionist, with a few words for his friends (“Because I came here four years ago, I feel like this is my class”). Reminding his listeners of the importance of staying in touch with their classmates and the value of networking, he urged them with humor to remember that most job openings are never posted and that most are filled through word of mouth. Valuable words in these lean employment times.
This being a graduation ceremony, various awards were also distributed. The Fine Arts Juror Award, made by Al Miner, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, went to Keri Lemoine, her prize a one-person exhibition in Suffolk’s Adams Gallery in June. The Robert Linsky Portfolio Award in Graphic Design was shared by Rebecca Miller and Hope Reagan, while the Interior Design program rewarded both academic and design excellence, the former to Kelly Bushey and H-K Jang, the latter to Janelle Parent and Mallory Schoendorf. In addition, Sara gave academic awards to the three students with the highest cumulative grade point averages in the class (“the valedictorian and two runners-up, if you will”): Keri Lemoine (3.876), Kaela Gallo (3.837) and Katia Christakis (3.771).
Following the brunch and some picture-taking, the new NESADSU alumni headed toward the Bank of America Pavilion for the 2:30pm Suffolk University commencement exercises, ending a long day of ceremony and congratulations.