Clark University held its 111th Commencement on Sunday, May 17, awarding 512 bachelor’s, 582 master’s and 24 doctoral degrees. The graduates, who received their degrees in a ceremony held on the campus green, represented more than 64 nations. President David P. Angel introduced Matt Goldman, co-founder of the iconic Blue Man Group and of the Blue School in Manhattan. Goldman received his bachelor’s and M.B.A. degrees from Clark in 1983 and 1984, respectively.
At Sunday’s ceremony he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and delivered the commencement address. Goldman noted that Clark was “vital and critical to putting me on my life’s path,” which led to the creation of Blue Man Group, now a global sensation that has played for 24 years in New York, performed more than 60,000 shows on five continents, and been nominated for a Grammy.
After citing an impressive list of accomplishments for the group and his efforts advocating for the arts, he said: “That’s what happened, even when lots of people, smart people, good-willed people, loved ones, said, ‘It’s weird, people won’t get it, it’s too smart, it’s too childish, it’s too strange, not enough humor, too much humor, too long, too short …’ My favorite one of all is, ‘Oh, come on, be reasonable.’ Well, I don’t want to be reasonable! In fact, I recommend being really unreasonable. You see, we didn’t set out to do all those things the first time we got bald and blue. We actually had one thing in mind: we wanted to lead creative lives.” Goldman described the process of launching Blue Man Group as “ordinary people collaborating to achieve extraordinary results.”
Goldman also explained how Blue Man Group’s goals and mission today influence Blue School, which serves students from pre-primary ages through grade eight. “Because we believe kids and adults should be defined not solely by their grades and test scores. … I have a hunch, if I asked any of the parents here what you want for your children, it would be that they are happy and satisfied in life. … Blue School’s vision is to cultivate these young learners to use courageous and innovative thinking to build a harmonious and sustainable world.”
In closing, Goldman suggested to the Class of 2015: “Why don’t we take a big risk and make up here and now that we are going to aim, through hard work, clear intent and passion to maximize our life satisfaction, and the by-product will be that the world is a better place. And through the richness and diversity of all your own individual missions and individual values, meaningful and dramatic change will occur on our planet. And why don’t we just make up that, in 30 years, articles will be written and documentaries will be made about this little University in central Massachusetts producing an incredibly disproportionate number of graduates who profoundly changed the world for the better … And what if we just decide that we’re going to have a whole lot of fun doing all of this. I sincerely and truly believe this is possible and if we all decide it, it will happen.”
Also speaking at the bachelor’s degree ceremony was Audrey Flack, nationally known painter, sculptor and pioneer of photorealism, who received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. “This school feels extraordinary. Therefore you must feel extraordinary, because you’re part of it,” she told the students. Flack related her career in the art world and her barrier-breaking moves into new media. “When you have an idea and that creative spark hits you, when a vision appears, when you hear that muse, you’ve got to go with it. And you don’t let anybody stop you.”
Miguel Lara, of Pawtucket, R.I., was selected as the Class of 2015 senior speaker. “The beautiful thing about a Clark education and our time here in making this space our own is that we were able to be the passionate, generous, quirky, and selfless individuals in and out of the classroom,” Lara said. “We experienced an education that facilitated, empowered, and guided us. We experienced an education that provoked us to question and analyze our identities. And although each of us had different reasons for coming to Clark, none of them mattered as much as the reasons why we stayed.” Lara went on to reflect on his many campus experiences and stressed the importance of time spent beyond the campus: “The beauty of this space is that we have extended our arms to the Worcester community and it is evident through the front entrance. Take a look to your right, those gates are open and always have been. We are not bound just by our campus, rather, the collective experiences that stretch beyond those gates.”
Prof. Francis K. Lelo, who earned his doctorate at Clark in 1994 and is now vice chancellor of Laikapia University in Kenya, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He spoke at the graduate degree-granting ceremony. Lelo, who consults widely on climate change and environmental impact issues, spoke about his humble background, academic and professional journey, and the ways his professors at Clark inspired him. “Clark is a unique institution where you are not a number, but a special individual,” he said. “My coming to Clark made me appreciate the beauty of simplicity in leadership and the search of knowledge. In Clark University there is a very thin line between students and faculty. … My experience in Clark has enabled me to challenge conventional thinking and start by changing my world view.”
The student speaker for the graduate ceremony was Gbetonmasse Somasse, candidate for a Ph.D. in economics, from Benin. He began with an African proverb saying, “No matter how dark the day, a new day will come.” He urged his fellow graduates to resist idleness and take action to address the world’s pressing problems. “Our degree is not our final destination but a gateway and a chance to answer this call, to become ambassadors of hope and agents of change,” he said.
In his charge to the new graduates, President Angel said: “As we now conclude these graduation ceremonies, I leave you with one final thought. Together we make up a community that is more than just another university. We are a place that embraces the challenge, the responsibility, and the opportunity to make a difference in the world. We hope that as you leave here today and take the next steps in your life that you will continue to live our motto to challenge convention and change our world. May you approach your work and life with empathy, energy, courage, and passion. In the spirit of Clark’s original motto — Fiat Lux — you are ready to bring light to our world.”