Architecture grad '73 and '76: recession, stagflation, and no federal attempt to help the economy. Typical job interview back then: "WashU? Where is that? Can you draft?"
Be imaginative in the job hunt and continue the hard work WashU required, especially in design history and delineation. Architecture is about selling/telling stories through recognizable, dependable, and clear technical delineations. Rewards come from providing clients and employers more than they expect.
My early experience had a different kind of wild client, but imagine the opportunity if Joe Exotic or one of the other zoo owners in Tiger King was your client. First, work out a few programmatic items with animal rights, then provide for them the same respect, competence, creative design, and documentation you will later provide to any other individual, corporate, or institutional client. Have an engaged attitude.
Remember to provide good memories for the benefit of the WashU grads that will follow.
Director, Shalom Baranes Associates
Greeting, WashU 2020 Classes. My career has seen many changes in the world, from graduation in 1973 to today. As a freshman 50 years ago in April 1970, in the Quad on the 1st Earth Day, I listened to Pete Seeger sing. He inspired us and continued to advocate for the environment for the rest of his life.
Today you face, along with much of the world and especially our country, challenges to your health, your professional future, your livelihood. Our hearts go out to you during this unworldly time in your lives, when the present seems stolen, and the future is murky. When participation in a physical graduation ceremony is taken away. We applaud your perseverance and extend a hand to provide support, advice, or simply share thoughts. You are the future, know we believe in you: your dreams, drive, and determination. Society needs your engagement, voice, and contributions. Pursue what you love, search out challenges, get involved. Get licensed. Give back. And welcome to the profession!
Professor, Norwalk Community College
I think that artists are the most fortunate people in the world; never bored; always engaged. We are free to think whatever we want to think. Art is an endless dialogue that traverses time and geography. My conversation with my work and others has continued over 50 years. I wake up looking forward to what I will see, learn, and produce tomorrow.
You are so lucky to be at the beginning of this wonderful journey.
To the Class of 2020,
My father informed me in April 1970 that he would help me bring my paintings home from WashU one week before graduation. Like you, many of us missed having the closure of graduation due to Vietnam War demonstrations. I was looking forward to your graduation so I could find that closure, but again I will miss graduation. This time around, however, I know that life is a journey with unexpected turns—joyous times along with excruciating experiences and disappointments that make that journey deeper and more rich. You've all spent the last four years immersed in the arts. You learned to give your journey a voice. The disappointment you feel today will pale as you use the gift you've experienced at WashU to give voice to your thoughts and experiences. Look ahead to a fulfilling life for yourself. Look ahead to a life with which you'll be able to give to the people you love, and you'll be able to help make the world a better place.
St. Augustine, Florida
Retired, Hallmark Artist and Freelance Children's Book Illustrator
As a member of the Class of 1970 School of Fine Arts majoring in illustration and design, I wish you much success in the world of art as you graduate. When I attended WashU, it was during the height of Pop Art and Op Art. Many art schools were focused on experimental art. But at WashU's School of Fine Arts, the basics of figure drawing and design were being taught. I remember a professor saying that it was up to us to break our own ground in art and that knowing the basics was at the root of all art. I was glad for that. Even though I knew that I was going to become an illustrator who wanted to do stylized children's art, all those tough anatomy classes and design projects gave me a solid foundation. I had great professors that pushed me to go beyond what I thought I was capable of and taught me to look and think beyond the surface of things. I went on to become a Hallmark artist and children's book illustrator. I will always cherish those four years of learning at Bixby Hall.
Morris Eminent Scholar in Art, Augusta University;
Director, Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design, Georgia State University
Soon you will be receiving your degree from Washington University and the Sam Fox School, and that is an accomplishment that the current situation cannot lessen. Congratulations on achieving that success!
Although this seems like a very hard time to envision meeting the many goals you have set for yourself, history tells us that events like the pandemic we are all experiencing inspire some people to do amazing things. That person can be you!
This is an excellent time to take advantage of working in your studio. Under normal circumstances distractions might keep you from studio work. Many artists I know have said that in hard times, it is their studio work that gets them through. It is true for me. I hope it will be true for you, too. When our current situation ends, you will be ready to be an active participant and make your career in the arts.
My best wishes for your future success!
Cheryl Goldsleger, MFA 1975
Fashion Design Students of the Class of 2020,
So sorry for you that the fashion show was cancelled, as well as your graduation and all of the festivities that accompany these special events. Maybe they can have an Internet fashion show where your projects can be photographed and shared. I was so looking forward to my 50th class reunion for the class of 1970 and seeing many friends from all over the US and overseas. WashU does a great job with reunions, and my husband and I attended his 50th last year. If nothing else gets planned, at least you will have reunions to look forward to.
Thinking of you,
Cheryl Dowd Jordan, BFA 1970
St. Louis, Missouri
President, KRJ Planning and Research
The human race has dealt itself a terrible blow with the coronavirus. My heart goes out to each and every one of you for having this happen at a time that should be of joyful fellowship with classmates.
I have been privileged to see the efforts of Hongxi Yin's class towards completing the entry to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Solar Design Decathlon. Once classes resumed after spring break, we kept communicating with one another in a team relationship through the Internet. This team of architecture and engineering students continued their teamwork and are now, five days before the deadline, nearing completion. Best of luck as you approach the finish line!
It is certain that this is only one example of a class that quickly adjusted to electronic communication only and are making progress towards the finish line and beyond.
London, United Kingdom
My thoughts are with the graduating class of 2020. You graduate into a world that is recognizably more fragile. The key challenge for you (and all of us) is to not revert to business as usual after the pandemic is over. Instead, we need your knowledge, curiosity, energy, and perseverance to challenge the status quo and create a new normal that protects life and the planet. You have learned to think and we need fresh thinking and new practices to transform our cities, buildings, and lives.
Brooklyn, New York
Congratulations! I was so impressed by the work I saw when I was last at WashU for my 45th reunion. I was a painting major in 1973 with an eye toward becoming a costume designer. WashU encouraged my work with the Drama Department as well as on my painting. I'm happy to say that 44 years later I am still a costume designer, and I still enjoy painting! I've been able to make a living while considering myself an artist. I encourage all of you to continue being creative in this time of the plague. It, too, will pass, and you may find something within yourselves that you can express and help heal the world. Art can change hearts and minds. I've witnessed it and believe you can be the agents for hope and change as well. I wish you all good luck and hope you will find and live your dreams.
You are really graduating under very harsh conditions. But my message to you is to try and place the crucial situation you are experiencing in a broader perspective. Almost the entire human world as we know it is experiencing the same harsh conditions. Think that you are living in one of the richest countries of the world, and you have better chances to overcome this menace compared to people in very poor countries. Be grateful for having acquired good quality education in a distinguished school and have been given the skills to overcome difficulties and challenges. Have confidence in yourselves but be modest. And every time you may face a difficult situation like the one we are going through, fight and always think that things could have been worse.
San Francisco, California
Dear Class of 2020,
My best wishes to you all as you graduate into this strange new world. We will get back to normal as we have in the past after other difficult times, but I wonder how your career path and creative expression will be changed and enhanced by this collective experience. Will you remember the importance of connection, kindness, preparation, and imagination? You will get through this, you will thrive, and you will do important work. We look forward to seeing it happen.
Owner, mphpm design
As an alum, I am with you in your challenge to graduate without pomp and circumstance. The real benefit of student life and education are the experiences, and the application and continued flowering of those into new beginnings. So while I cannot imagine your emotions during these trying times, the proud achievement of completion of your studies even without public celebration is recognized by those of us who proceeded you.
Best of luck to all,
Howard Mock - Chicago
BA 1974, MArch 1976
My dad, my cousin, and I were all architecture grads from WashU. John Forgy became a partner of the Wittenberg, Deloney, and Davidson firm in Arkansas. I worked for his and another firm, Modulation Designs in Massachusetts. Later, I went another direction and homeschooled my sons for 13 years. Afterwards, I had a construction-related job I enjoyed very much. Allison Conley is currently leading the design team of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture for the Al Wasl Plaza, the center of the Dubai Expo 2020 masterplan. I also didn't get to attend my graduation ceremony. A little sad but there were exciting days ahead with my new job. Also, WashU's excellent training and reputation still remained with me. Congratulations.
Embudo, New Mexico
I graduated with a BFA in 1974. I am a full-time artist.
Making a living is sometimes smooth, sometimes a struggle. Architectural commissions have been a mainstay. Most commissions allow me freedom to be creative within parameters, which helps develop problem-solving skills. Great art is often made within defined boundaries. My worldly success is modest. I've made public pieces, but I'm not represented by a successful gallery, nor have had profiles in Art in America. Yet I can't imagine a more successful life. I spend my days working in the studio. I live in gratitude.
Beware of society's prevailing values. Worship of wealth and the individual serves us poorly.
Contemplate the natural world such as the earth spinning on its axis or our complex network of neurons. It's mysterious and beautiful.
And be empathetic. This will inform your work and lead to good decision-making.
Owner/Photographer, Jim Olvera Photographer
Just before I graduated from the School of Art, alumnus Jack Unruh, an illustrator of international renown, spoke to our design class. He displayed his brilliant work, asked if any of us had an interest in moving to Dallas, and asked for a show of hands. Mine was the only one that went up. He gave me his card and said to call him.
A few weeks later, I called, said that I would be in town soon, and he invited me to his studio. He looked at my work, pulled out his Rolodex, and gave me the names and numbers of six designers. I had a job the following Monday. When I called to thank him, he asked me just to do the same for someone else when I had the chance; no thanks necessary.
So here's what I learned. Don't be afraid to contact the people at the top of your field. They may surprise you with their receptivity. Above all, when you have the opportunity (and you will) remember to help others who are trying to find their way. We're all in this together.
New Woodstock, New York
Principal & Creative Director, WilliamPadgettDesign
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!!!
People will always remember this year. You will always remember this year. How you will remember it will be based on what you did this year and beyond.
I can tell you that you will get through this rough part of the road and be successful. How? The secret is your attitude! Always be a Perverse Optimist (thx Tibor). Embrace change. Treat all problems as opportunities. Help save the planet and all of its inhabitants. Work with strong teams. See failures as tools for learning. Practice lifelong learning. Share and teach what you have learned. Be happy: It is more contagious than this damn virus.
Also: Do what you love, love what you do. It is a very simple and balanced philosophy that allows to you never really have to "work" a day in your life! Plus you will work twice as hard because of it.
Change starts with each of you. Your class can be the catalyst for massive shifts that will determine the future of our species.
in bocca del lupo,
President, Pevnick Design Inc.
Professor Emeritus of Art and Design, The University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
The skills you learned at Washington University, understanding and applying the creative process, will serve you well in art or design. It will help you build a record of jobs and achievements that will bring recognition and lead you to opportunities. This can come as job opportunities or facilitate creating something. Be sure and keep a web presence for yourself and archive your projects so that others can see what you do and find you. If you have an art or design goal, take a job that will teach some of the skills that you need to learn to achieve that goal and work towards that goal on you own time. You don't have to necessarily be a "starving artist" to make your creative masterpiece. This might be a gallery art show or a design achievement—what you imagine can become your realization. Look for grant funding opportunities, crowd sourcing, or business alliances to keep your ultimate goal in sight. When you achieve your goal, build and expand on your creation, your vision.
I was hoping to share your celebration this May, as it will be my 50th reunion from Washington University, but as we all know, that is not to be. Unfortunately, I missed my commencement 50 years ago during the Vietnam protests and bomb threats to the campus in 1970. My parents would not let me attend. It was disappointing then and disappointing again now. It seems I am not destined to robe up and "walk." In no way has this impacted my life in the real world. I received my diploma by mail: I had my BFA from the Art School and subsequently went to NYC where I secured a graphic design job at Dell Publishing Company. When my husband (also a WashU graduate, BSBA '68) and I moved back to St Louis for his legal career, I worked with my WashU roommate for over 40 years in our photography business.
My message to you is move on, make plans, do something you love, and take the memories and friends you made along when you can. We are all counting on you to make this world a better place.
I received my MFA in 1974—a very different time than now. Our class was probably one of the reasons the University decided to have individual diploma ceremonies because we all came in costumes: art angels, hillbillies from NY, clowns, beauty pageant participants, etc. Those were the days when ceremony was not taken seriously. That said, I will say that my years at Washington University School of Fine Arts prepared me to take my intended career as painter with a day job, university professor, very seriously. For art students, it is a disappointment not to have final exhibits of work, but what you do have is a wonderful education that has provided you with the ability to think intelligently and creatively, as well as the collective energy of your peers and professors to follow your passion.
Fellow Architects, it's a scary time to be graduating, but remember the world has survived World Wars, 9/11, and Pandemics (1957-58) and returned with vigor and innovation to build the next generation. If your immediate fear is finding a job, then you will be tested on your ability to improvise and persevere; both are qualities that will serve you well and may not have come your way in normal times. There is value in struggling, and you will find determination that you didn't know you had. When I graduated, I felt lost and frightened: it was 1972, the Vietnam War was raging, with social unrest and riots on college campuses, my Father had recently died, two of my best friends had also died within weeks of graduation, and I was carrying college debt. I tried in vain to find a job in St. Louis, but never even got an interview. Alas, I moved back home to Little Rock, a choice of last resort. Within 18 months, I moved to Chicago, went to work for SOM, and later founded a firm that grew to 50 people.
Good morning, young graduates! I am living and working as an architect-sculptor-educator at Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Like you all, we are also facing very difficult days. Unlike your country, which is advanced and has a literate and economically stable population, we are far from it, and most of our population are not aware of the grim situation around the world. So please try and understand that you are slightly better off and wait for your glorious rewarding days. The wait will provide you enough time and energy to work creatively for a better, safer world!
Founder/Creative Director, Lions Gate Companies LLC
Good afternoon, Class of 2020,
I wanted to drop you a note from Scottsdale, Arizona. I am a BFA 1973 and wanted you to know what an honor it was to become part of the Washington University family. It is a great institution and, for those who apply themselves, your degree from WashU will offer you limitless opportunities.
My opportunities at WashU gave me the knowledge and confidence to start my own advertising agency immediately following graduation. I have enjoyed a great career and continue to work in the field I love so much.
So work hard and have fun. And remember to take advantage of the world-class learning opportunities by being a part of this incredible institution/family.
Lions Gate Companies, LLC
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Embracing the Change, Expressing Gratitude
I want to send a message of support to the graduate students who have embraced this extraordinary moment of disruption and uncertainty.
We held our first Zoom studio, with all 12 students, plus my co-teacher, looking at each project as if we were standing by their desks, and using our styluses to draw over their shared screens as if we were in the room together. I am quite proud of how the students have taken this extraordinary circumstance in their strides and are pushing through with their work with grace, energy, creativity, integrity, and a spark of humor. No one asked for this crisis, and yet our students have been the best model of why they wanted to come to Washington University in the first place: Because they want to be architects, they want to build, they want to understand the world through that lens, and they want to make a difference to that world. I can see it happening right before me, and I say, "Yes, they will, yes."