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Commencement Speaker Stefan Sagmeister Challenges Grads to Overcome Their Fears

Watch a 5-part video of the ceremony

Posted 05.17.10 by MICA communications

Stefan Sagmeister

BALTIMORE--MICA President Fred Lazarus presented degrees to nearly 500 undergraduate and graduate students at the College's 161st commencement, which took place in the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on May 17.

Commencement speaker Stefan Sagmeister, who is regarded as one of the most influential international graphic designers, told the graduates, "every single time that I have overcome my fear, it has actually turned out well." Sagmeister continued his message about the power of defeating fear by referring to Mike Tyson's coach, Cus D'Amato, who is known for saying "heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear. Heroes just react to it differently."
• WATCH: A 5-part video of the ceremony.

During the graduate address, Graham Matthew Coreil-Allen '10 (Mount Royal School of Art) stated that the "pursuit of the creative dream is a right to which we are all entitled." He began his speech, listing the woes of the economy and other current affairs, then questioned "Does an M.F.A. really seem that important?" "Yes," he answered, "we [the students] had no other choice. As artists, as designers, as educators ... we make because we are compelled ... we have the potential to improve our own lives and the lives of others."

During the undergraduate speech, Samuel Downes Thurman '10 (interaction design and art) reflected on Baltimore, which was essential to his undergraduate experience at MICA, as "a city of contradictions" that the artists could use as an impetus for their work.

Sagmeister received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts during the ceremony. The two-time Grammy Award-winning designer lives and works in New York designing across media. He boasts longstanding collaborations with the AIGA, moveon.org, Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones and David Byrne '72.

Gary Vikan, in leadership at the Walters Art Museum for 25 years, and George L. Bunting Jr., a MICA board member for nearly 40 years who has served the Baltimore community in many capacities, received Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Renowned architect and outgoing Alumni Council Chair Ronald E. Fidler '64 received the Alumni Award. This year's Medal of Honor winners are art education faculty member and respected social-action quilter Dr. Joan M.E. Gaither and longtime printmaking faculty member and glass artist Allegra Marquart.

Degrees were awarded to nearly 500 MICA students, including bachelor's of fine arts (B.F.A.) degrees in animation; art history, theory and criticism; ceramics; drawing; environmental design; fiber; general fine arts; graphic design; illustration; interaction design and art; interdisciplinary sculpture; painting; photography; printmaking; and video and film arts; as well as the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Fine Art; master of arts (M.A.) degrees in Art Education, Community Arts and Teaching; and master of fine arts (M.F.A.) degrees in Graphic Design, Studio Art, Photographic and Electronic Media, Hoffberger School of Painting, Mount Royal School of Art and Rinehart School of Sculpture.

Image caption: Commencement speaker Stefan Sagmeister gives his remarks.


Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.

Commencement Award Winners

Faculty & Staff

Trustee Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching: Rich Lipscher (animation), Joan Gaither (Art Education), Dave Cloutier (foundation)

Distinguished Service Award (staff): Stephen Meneely


Alumni Award for Student Leadership: Noel Hernandez (illustration)

Sidney Lake Memorial Award: Kourtney Stone (ceramics), Caroline Van Sicklin (photography)

Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize: Kottie Gaydos (photography)

F. Grainger Marburg Traveling Award: Jonathan Taube (interdisciplinary sculpture)

Meyer Photography Traveling Fellowship: Kottie Gaydos

Mark Stempel '90 Thesis Prize in Environmental Design: Irina Dukhnevich


Graduate Student Leader Award Winners: Cyle Metzger (Mount Royal), Benjamin Kelley (Rinehart)

Patricia Lion Krongard '76 '90 Art Education Award: Alissandra Seelaus

Graduate Painting Award: Eo-Ryoung Choi

Rinehart Award: Benjamin Kelley

Amalie Rothschild '34 Rinehart Award: Joseph LeTourneau

Graphic Design MFA Prize: Aaron Walser

Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship Award: Benjamin Kelley

Henry Walters Traveling Fellowship: Joyce Yu-Jean Lee

MICA Graduate Fellowship Studio @ Bromo Seltzer Tower: Jonathan Stonely

Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown: Matthew Fishel