Pratt celebrated its 124th commencement ceremony at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013. I always try to make it to graduation to honor the hard work of our graduating seniors. Although there are usually a few students graduating who I worked with closely, mostly I go to see the many students who took my classes to fulfill their math and science requirements walk across the stage.
These ceremonies can drag on, but this one seemed to flow pretty smoothly. The highlight for me was Kurt Andersen’s address to the graduating class. Andersen, a Pratt trustee and general media polymath, extolled the importance of maintaining one’s amateur spirit even upon entering the professional world. He explained how the word “amateur” — which simply means “lover of” — has gone from describing a passionate enthusiast to its current-day description of someone who is unskilled, naive, or clumsy. Andersen encouraged the class of 2013 to embrace the old definition of being an amateur, carrying the playful spirit of exploration for exploration’s sake into their professional lives. I sat their smiling, because coming to Pratt was pivotal in maintaining my own playfulness; it would have been easy for me to find myself in a narrow academic job that would have stunted my creative exploration of the diverse scientific topics I now call part of my scholarly world.
After commencement was over, I headed over to the Flameproof show. Featuring work from Fine Arts seniors whose studios had been destroyed by a fire in Pratt’s Main Building, the show was a great way to complete the day of celebration. It was inspiring to see how these students had striven to create new work out of the literal ashes of their Pratt careers.
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