Message from the Dean – March 11, 2019

First some good news:

ACM@UCO Executive Director Scott Booker was recently announced as one of five individuals who will be honored by receiving the “Arts in Education” award for their contributions to the arts in Oklahoma during the 43rd Governor’s Arts Awards in mid-April. According to the Governor’s Office, honorees are: “Hard working, selfless, and devoted to causes greater than themselves…Those selected for awards have shown exemplary commitment to impacting lives through the arts in communities and schools across our state”.

More good news:

Twenty-three Theatre Arts students from UCO were nominated to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Abilene, Texas, February 25-28, 2019. Our Theatre Arts students won the following awards: Emily Bond, national finalist, runner up; Alyssa Moon (and cast), regional finalist; Josiah Brooks, Olivia Wells (partner), regional finalist; Jacob Miller, Alyssa Moon (partner), regional semi-finalist; and Olivia Wells (and cast), Maid of Iron, Fringe Festival, Region IV Invited Scenes. Congratulations to the Department of Theatre Arts on this unprecedented success!

Now a story:

I fell in love for the first time in the fall of 1979. My family and I were beginning to emerge from the clinging emotional fog of my sister’s death three years before. Losing a daughter seared permanent psychosocial patterns into the weave of our family. Becky’s passing taught me harsh realities of love and loss. I knew from experience that the worst imaginable event could actually happen, and that “happily-ever-after” was the dubious purview of fairy tales. However, by that fall, there was enough scar tissue on my young heart to allow new affection to enter. Life went on. Teetering on the cusp of 18, the nearly hallucinogenic cocktail of hormones, pheromones and a gnawing need to experience love toppled me into a single-minded obsession. Pam was exotic, mind-blowingly intelligent, and a talented musician. Her parents were both physicians, and immigrants from the Philippines. Like me, Pam was a new kid at Andrews Academy. We were inseparable during spring semester and the following summer. Musings about our future infatuated me. I imagined our wedding and the half-Filipino babies that would follow. My mom married my dad at age 18, why should I wait?

One evening during early fall, in the cramped quarters of her yellow Ford Fiesta, Pam stated in a matter-of-fact tone, that she would track me down in 10 years to see the sort of woman I married and take a gander at my sure-to-be, adorable kids. In that moment, she pulled the pivotal stick from the Jenga tower of my imaginary future, and left me in the rubble of an immoderate teenaged fantasy. Pam unapologetically, and truthfully, identified me as a footnote in her story. If she remembered me at all, it would be a as boy she dated junior year of high school. My intense focus on immediate feelings had blinded me to broader realities. Pam recognized that millions of unsewn stitches remained before the tapestry of her life would reveal its pattern. The aftermath of the breakup generated a howling inner void I attempted to fill with tears. In the absence of a wider perspective, I engaged in self-pity for weeks. A genuine fortune-teller might have saved me considerable angst by informing me I would meet Sandy, the genuine love of my life, a year later. With her as my witness and cheerleader, the reality of my journey has been fulfilling in ways far beyond the scope of my post-breakup, 18-year-old imagination. In time, Pam became a footnote in my life as the only girl who ever broke my heart.

The CFAD family is currently experiencing a heartbreaking season of overwhelming sorrow. Multiple faculty and staff have lost parents, a child or a loved one during the last few months. Like an emotional wrecking ball, family issues have ransacked our lives. Health problems confront us and those we love. Last week, we encountered the unfathomable, senseless and tragic deaths of Mike and Rachel Walker, who were keenly and beautifully integrated into the lives of CFAD students and faculty for decades. Even with mid-life perspective, and a long wake of the journey behind us, these events cut the anchor chains of cherished assumptions and beliefs and leave us emotionally and spiritually adrift. Developing scar tissue on the heart takes time, and each of us requires differing types of care. It is my hope that in this period of intense grief and emotional upheaval, we will expand our capacities for thoughtfulness. Colleagues are suffering in stunned disbelief while reimagining the puzzle of their lives with vital pieces missing. Please allow coworkers the benefit of the doubt, and remember that powerful, raw emotions lurk just beneath the surface. Life will not be the same, but there will be joy and fulfillment again. It will take time, compassion, patience and empathy to weather the journey. Let’s be there for each other.