Recently, I was asked to speak at my Alma Mater – SIUC (it was the first time back in over 17 years). It was fun to see the old stomping grounds… and an honor to sit with three other alum far more esteemed than I. The panel discussion was in honor of the great Bucky Fuller, also an SIUC alum- we offered our stories & counsel to current staff & students.
SIUC LIBRARY THEN & NOW (which houses the auditorium we spoke at):
SIUC PRESS RELEASE:
Alumni of the School of Art and Design reunited at their alma mater Friday in the John C. Guyon Auditorium in Morris Library for a panel discussion to give advice to current design students and share stories about their experiences at SIU and time spent with their professor, the late Fuller. Fuller was a designer, inventor, an author who wrote more than 30 books and an SIU professor in the School of Art and Design from 1959 to 1971. He was also featured on the cover of the January 1964 issue of Time Magazine.
The panel included former students Bob Doty, Bob Gailen, Jim Vloek, Tereasa Surratt and Warren Williamson who were asked questions by Busch, a retired professor in the School of Art and Design. Busch’s questions focused on the panel’s individual designing, like what design program experiences best served the alumni in their careers, what they wish they knew in school that they know now and what advice they had for current design students. Several alumni in the audience also provided guidance and shared their own reminiscent accounts about Fuller in their time at the university.
Mary Carroll, associate director of institutional advancement for the SIU Foundation and organizer of the panel, said she visited design alumni who have graduated in the past 40 years to create the panel. She asked them what skills they learned at the university that helped throughout their career and held strong even as the use of new technology increased.
Carroll said the alumni told her creativity, innovation, collaboration, and problem solving were important for students’ success. “We invited them to come back and share these concepts because we believe that if (those concepts) have sustained (them) for the last 40 years when we couldn’t even envision what (the world) would look like, what skill would you need 40 years from now?” she said.
The panel also shared personal stories about Fuller. Busch said classes would be canceled and everyone would race to his location to hear him speak whenever Fuller came back to campus. Carroll said Fuller always attributed solutions to the world’s problems to nature, and people are all a part of Earth and they can collaborate to find a way to sustain civilization. “Buckminster Fuller was a comprehensivist, meaning, you needed to understand the big picture,” she said. Carroll said the panel was great and she was very thankful to see the alumni return to SIU.
LOOKING BACK, PAYING IT FORWARD: Own your story.
I left my very rural hometown to go to SIUC when I was still just 17…the first in the family to go to college. It was scary coming from the soybean fields to a place with 4-times more students than the population of my hometown. SIUC was literally the biggest place I had ever been to in my life. This is where being an underdog is your biggest asset.
I spent my four years there juggling jobs at the College Marketing Department, as a sign painter, and bartending — watching seniors before me compete for the coveted Rickert Ziebold Award, a scholarship for top graduates from the Art & Design Department. So I was pretty stunned to get the letter upon graduation that I was a recipient. My favorite professor told me I was the only recipient in the history of the award to have come from the commercial side of the design department…all winners before had been in the fine arts. At that time, those of us on the advertising side where considered “commercial sell outs” he said. Looking back, the award was tiny – but at that time, it was everything. It afforded me my first computer at a college that offer Macs. Yes, I’m that old.
Every check I wrote for the next ten years to pay off my student loan was a reminder that college was my ticket out of the farm.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE SOYBEAN FIELDS:
Don’t take anything for granted.
Own your story & your roots.
Pay it forward.
I am so grateful that today I get the chance to mentor students at University For The Creative Arts, England, Chicago Portfolio School & daily in my advertising job in the career that my 17-year-old-self never even knew existed.
For all these opportunities, I thank my boot-strapping dad, my little hometown Beardstown, and my Alma Mater, SIUC.
“Where are they now?” SIUC newspaper interview: