I’m Nancy Andrews. I profess in video and animation and sound and puppetry and performance art, so it probably won’t surprise you that this is the first time that I have been offered a chance to speak at a podium at COA. I usually have to bring my own podium. I did take a speech class in high school. I made a speech about how to make crepes, with a demonstration. That was one of my first unintentional comedic performances. Hopefully I won’t end up with a burning blob of batter at the end of this speech. Although that could be funny.

I feel that part of my job today is to impart something important, on this important day. Or maybe it is just to say Congratulation to seniors. So I will start with the congratulations part. I imagine that most of the seniors are fairly exhausted right now. After finishing 4 years of course work, internships, independent projects and culminating in a senior project, you are tired—and I know all you did for these four or so years was work. There were no parties or guitar strumming get togethers or whatever.   We are all very proud of you, your parents, your teachers, your families, your friends, we are proud. You didn’t just follow the crowd. You found your way to complete a degree in Human Ecology with help the people in this room, standing on the shoulders of the people that have come before you, and you have received the influences of people also who could not be in the room today. But I think I can speak for the staff and faculty when I say we will miss you. Well, we will miss most of you. There are always the one or two who…well…Anyhow, we hope you will always be a part of this place and that this place and the people here will be part of you. And this is not a preamble for a cannibalistic ritual. This is a preamble to say that we are all part of a learning community. Everyone is important in this kind of learning—it is like a house of cards that doesn’t take much to bring into imbalance. Like an organism that takes everyone to keep it healthy. How do we feed a learning community?   A balance of control and freedom, a mix of going far afield physically and intellectually and staying close to home to practice and spend time together, a mix of respect and irreverence. When it works we learn together, we go places we would not have imagined, we invent things, and sometimes people get injured, but that is why we have ice packs. At the beginning of this Human Ecology education journey, we should have told you this quote from one of my heroes, Gracie Allen:

So now we begin our journey together. If you follow these instructions carefully, you will find that every step of your progress, like the path that climbs up and up from the sheltered valley, offers you an ever-wider and more fascinating vista, until at last you come out upon the summit of the wrong hill. - Gracie Allen

One of the functions of today’s gathering is an awards ceremony. And one of the great things about these awards is that they are often named in honor of peoples’ memories and you will hear about some special people today that these awards have been named for. And we will celebrate the folks who receive these awards.

I have been lucky to get a couple of awards in my life so far. When I was in elementary school I got a ribbon for a drawing I did in pastel of a lonely tree. Thematically, really my work has changed very little since then. And I have received a much bigger award that, one that has been received by some giants of art and literature that it is ridiculous to even be on the same list with—Carson McCullers, Aaron Copland. Martha Graham. But much more frequently I have been rejected, denied or over looked. Thems the odds. And even when I “win”, I have to admit that there are many more people out there that would have deserved the honor equally or more than myself. There is always an element of fortune—good or bad when it comes to winning. The processes for choosing whom to honor are imperfect. The playing field is not even. Everyone should get recognition for the good things they do, but that is not always the case. Frankly, the best work and the best effort are not always rewarded. Work hard, do your best, make friends, treat people right and cross your fingers.

Some graduating students have had to overcome great adversities and loses in their lives and maybe during their time here at COA. Some have lost family members, friends, had health problems of their own or other very hard times.   Some people should get an award for just being here today, for making it to graduation, for getting over the finish line. And I don’t mean to lessen in any way the folks that are honored here today. But I would like to suggest some additional awards

Awards I wish we had:

  • Dolly Parton “Most Glamorous Award”
  • Sun Ra “Stranger from Space Award”
  • Johnny Cash “Sobriety Award”
  • Ed Wood “Best Use of Foil Award”
  • Stephen Hawking “Mind over Matter” Award”
  • Mae West “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better Award”

Awards will not make you laugh, or keep you warm on a long winter’s night or help wash the dishes or bring you soup when you are sick or lick you face when you get home from work. Almost all of those things would require a dog, not an award. And we are not giving any dogs today.

“Each of us has been put on earth with the ability to do something well. We cheat ourselves and the world if we don’t use that ability as best we can.” - Gracie Allen

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” - Mae West