WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Commencement speaker Jordan Kerner urged graduates of the UNC School of the Arts on Saturday to view their hard-earned diplomas not just as a key accomplishment in their own lives, but also an acceptance of their role as a custodian of the national and global culture of the arts.
“Help provide the lens in which we can see the truth,” said Kerner, an acclaimed film and television producer who served as UNCSA’s dean of the School of Filmmaking from 2007 to 2012.
“Help others ponder the underlining message of your craft. Recognize that the arts can heal souls and mend hearts. Be original. Seek what is authentic. Without failure, there is no growth, and it is a sign you have set your goals too low.”
As is typical at UNCSA graduations, the ceremony at the Stevens Center was almost like a performance. Many of the 206 graduates dressed in their own style, including dramatic costumes or attention-grabbing color-coordinated fashion.
The ceremony also represented a farewell to James Moeser, who served as interim chancellor during the 2013-14 school year.
Moeser challenged the graduates to recognize with gratitude the level at which UNCSA has “nourished their talents, developed their creativity and cultivated their passion.”
Moeser and other UNCSA faculty encouraged the graduates to understand the professional and personal transition they are making from student to colleague and peer.
“As you follow your heart, make sure to use your brain,” said Robert King III, chairman of the university’s board of trustees. “The school has prepared you for 18-hour workdays, sleepless nights and hunger, but also for the success to come.”
Joseph Blankinship, president of the UNCSA student government association, stressed the ties that have bound all alumni since the first graduating class in 1965.
“Those ties show us that we’re never alone,” Blankinship said. “Remember to be gracious to alumni who give us jobs, let us sleep on their couch.
“There’s something greater than ourselves here, a greatness and a goodness of which we should be grateful.”
Kerner told the graduates that with all the technological advancements in their industry, as well as the global opportunities for their skills, “a UNCSA diploma means more now than ever.”
He urged the graduates to “love what you do” since there will be times they will “be only as good as your last song, last film, last performance.”
If you do love what you do, he said, “you will be challenged to reveal the best of who you are.”
Of the 206 undergraduate and graduate school students receiving their diplomas, 32 North Carolina counties were represented, along with 29 states and seven countries.
Kevin Carillo, Rachyl Duffy and Wesley Forlines were recognized as William Kenan Jr. Excellence Scholars, and Lauren McDonough as the Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar.