Message from the Dean – May 13, 2019

First some good news:

CFAD alumnus, and Former Law & Order star Milena Govich has earned the role of director/co-executive producer for the upcoming second season of Dick Wolf’s CBS drama series FBI. Govich will be the first female directing producer on a Dick Wolf series. #CFADWorks!

More good news:

The #CFADWorks social media campaign proves that our graduates are successfully working in the arts, but it’s not just our graduates earning a paycheck with their talent. This summer, nearly 40 of our current Musical Theatre students and faculty will be singing and dancing their way across the state and nation performing for companies such as Lyric Theatre, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park and Pollard Theatre in central Oklahoma as well as companies in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York. Roll Chos!

Now a story:

My father is a car guy. As a young man, he drove muscle cars. There are photographs of me learning to ride a bike with a 1970 Plymouth GTX lurking in the background. Dad eventually switched his car preference to Cadillacs as comfort overtook speed as a prime consideration. He loves mechanical things with a childlike wonder and enthusiasm. Beginning with motorcycle engine modifications during my childhood, his fascination with anything motorized eventually developed into the hobby of rebuilding totaled automobiles in our garage. He drafted me into the service of this pastime willingly or unwillingly during my final three years of high school.

Reconstructing cars compelled some adventures. Once, having located the front end of a wrecked Porsche 924 in South Dakota, we embarked on a Homeric, non-stop, 30-hour round trip odyssey from Michigan to Pierre, to acquire it. In the days before GPS and mobile phones, this journey included sirens, wrong turns, a lost wallet, keys locked in the truck, and being stuck up to our axles in the mud of a vacant lot in Chesterton, Indiana at 2:30 a.m. After safely returning home, we spent the next few weeks cutting and welding accumulated car sections together. As the result of this labor, I proudly drove a red Porsche during the fall of 1982. Although I begrudged sacrificing evenings and weekends to Deus Ex Machina, there were undeniable social perks inherent in driving enviable cars during high school. My ride during senior year was a rebuilt, dark blue, 1978, Z-28 Camaro with a 350 cubic inch engine. The car sported an aluminum high-rise intake manifold, a Holly four-barrel carburetor, race-tuned camshafts, Moroso headers, and a Borg Warner 5 speed manual transmission hitched to a 3:53 positraction differential. It was quick off the line, and had a top speed somewhere north of 120 m.p.h.

Unsurprisingly, I lost my driver’s license for part of that year. The determining event occurred when a high school crush named Janet placed her hand on my thigh and demurely asked me to burn some rubber. Happy to oblige any request she might make, I popped the clutch at the stop sign by Berrien Cold Storage, and put the pedal to the metal. As impressive, incendiary plumes of dark grey smoke billowed behind the rear spoiler, a police cruiser appeared at the cross street to my right. Fog-like wisps were still drifting past the driver’s side window as the officer approached. He wrote the citation with a wry grin, but apparently, peer pressure from an attractive young woman offered no mitigation for producing a squealing cacophony and a mephitic nimbus on a city street. The ticket was for careless driving. Since it was not my first moving infraction that year, I was relieved of my license pending additional driver’s training and payment of a fine. There was no silver lining to this cloud. Insurance became difficult to purchase for the next three years, and Janet remained indifferent to my charms.

Happiness on the road of life depends a lot on who is in the vehicle with you. On a personal level, I am fortunate to experience the journey with Sandy as my life’s witness and partner. She fortifies me when I am most vulnerable, and provides support and encouragement as I navigate toward the best version of myself. On a macro level, humans are a pack species. The urge toward emotional connectedness is hardwired into our DNA. We function most effectively in groups where our disparate strengths are utilized and valued as they animate the hive toward growth and the accomplishment of common goals.

An optimally performing university requires introverts, extroverts, change agents, traditionalists, big-picture thinkers, and minutiae minders. The gears of academia spin in perpetual motion. The movements may be sluggish or rapid, but we exist in either a state of positive evolution or entropy. No individual possesses all the qualities necessary to lead an academic unit toward consistently constructive transmutations. Success is achieved only through pragmatically building and meshing the disparate abilities of a team. I appreciate the opportunity to lean into the talents of colleagues and coworkers in areas where I lack knowledge or expertise. I am grateful every day that my trek includes the Dean’s office squad, CFAD faculty, the mentorship of the Provost, and the President with his unerring focus on the mission of this institution. I am buoyed by your strengths. With cogent advice and the shared governance of faculty, staff, and academic leadership, the CFAD road forward is clear, and “careless driving” will remain incongruous with our journey.