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Pat Irwin ’77, Honorary Degree Recipient, Grinnell College Commencement 2012

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Pat Irwin ’77, Honorary Degree Recipient, Grinnell College Commencement 2012


Hello and congratulations to you all. It’s a wonderful honor for me to be here
and to be part of this celebration, which it really is. Thanks to President Kington
and the faculty, past and present, the administration and the staff and to all of you who make Grinnell
College what it is. I want to take a quick minute to thank Rachel
Bly for taking such good care of my family and for me, [applause] and I also want to
thank Rod Schultz for taking such good care of my family, for not only his work with the
development office but for checking up on me in New York City and keeping me connected
to the school. There’s no way I could have done any of
those things that were mentioned to you, those beautiful remarks, without thanking my family,
which is my mother, both my brothers and their families, and my wife, Terri, and my son,
and I would also like to thank my dad who is no longer here but with me always. When I was sitting, essentially in this place,
and about to get my degree at about the same time in 1977, I could never have imagined
the impact that Grinnell would have on my life and my career. You’re all graduating with degrees and that’s
a wonderful honor and it’s fine, but you’re graduating with something much more and that’s
each other. It’s a phenomenal asset and invaluable and
it might not be particularly clear at the moment, but it’s something I strongly urge
you to nurture and to develop. It’s a treasure. This place but not only the people, the place,
but the people connected to it, is something you will always have. Quickly I also want to thank a woman who was
here when I was a student named Georgia Dental and Georgia was the administrative advisor
for college events. In my case, I was the concert chairperson
or co-chairperson, and I worked closely with Georgia putting together the concerts. She
was passionate about the job, she had very strong opinions, but she was also very good
at it. That experience and the impact of working
with musicians, it stays with me, stayed with me forever. It’s still with me today. That experience gave me access to music and
musicians. It was much, much deeper than learning about
the notes; it was about the life and the details and the discipline. I didn’t graduate with a degree in music,
my degree was in American Studies, which at the time was among the more liberal of the
liberal arts. But it was really about my professors, Charles
Cleaver and Al Jones, giving me the encouragement to interview the residents of What Cheer,
IA for an oral history report on that town. It was also about my art history professor,
Dick Cervene, who knowingly, or unknowingly, showed me the music in the Jackson Pollock
painting. The way he spoke about art, painting, was
a work of art in and of itself. I can never forget the time that he came to
see me play at CBGB’s. It was a total surprise, it always felt like such a small, intimate
place and to see him there, he was standing right in front, and if you knew him you’ll
remember he had on a big bulky sweater. It was totally inappropriate but he also had
on a big beautiful smile and that single act of kindness, by just being there, was probably
one of the more memorable and validating moments in my career. I can’t really estimate the value of my
liberal arts degree and to say that I use it every day isn’t quite accurate. It’s
something much more than that. I’m glad I’ve got it and I’m glad to
be celebrating it, right now, right here, with you. I mean this. We need more of you in the world. We need the ones who connect the dots between
science and literature and theatre and religion and we need the ones that can connect with
all the humanity, the humanity of it all. Thank you and congratulations.

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1 thought on “Pat Irwin ’77, Honorary Degree Recipient, Grinnell College Commencement 2012”

  1. susantyrellfans says:

    He is incredibly talented as well as a great person.

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