Watch Lynda Barry’s Graduation Speech; Give a Shout Out to the Teachers Who Changed Your Life

The University of the Arts’ most recent grads are lucky ducks to have had a speaker as engaging as cartoonist and educator Lynda Barry delivering their commencement’s keynote address.

Speaker Barry was also made an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, an award that occasioned the ill-fitting tam seen in the video above, as well as a new title—Doctor Nursey—conferred by pre-kindergarteners with whom she works at the University of Wisconsin. (Previous aliases include Professor Chewbacca and Professor Old Skull)

Barry kept things lively by mixing in some tried and true material from other public appearances, including her Filipino grandmother’s belief in the aswang, a poem set to music (here “Cotton Song” by Harlem Renaissance poet, Jean Toomer) and the story of the collaborative cartoon, “Chicken Attack by Jack.”

This last anecdote contains a strong indictment of contemporary society’s screen addiction, and it is heartening to see the graduates—members of the last generation to pre-date the Internet—listening so attentively, no one texting or tweeting as the camera pans the crowd.

When Barry exhorted them to shout out the names of their three most inspiring teachers on the count of three, most did!

For me, this was the most thrilling moment, though I also appreciated the advice on the best time to schedule oral surgery, and a blissful untruth about Evergreen State College’s application process circa the mid-70s.

Not your typical commencement speech… those lucky, lucky ducks!

Readers, we invite you to get in the spirit and celebrate the Class of 2015 by “shouting” the names of your most inspirational teachers in the comment section below.

Related Content:

Lynda Barry’s Wonderfully Illustrated Syllabus & Homework Assignments from Her UW-Madison Class, “The Unthinkable Mind”

Join Cartoonist Lynda Barry for a University-Level Course on Doodling and Neuroscience

John Waters’ RISD Graduation Speech: Real Wealth is Never Having to Spend Time with A-Holes

Robert De Niro Tells Graduating NYU Arts Grads, “You Made It… And You’re F*cked”

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Congratulations, graduates, especially the members of NYC’s most freshly forged theater company, Rascal Arts. Follow her @AyunHalliday


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  • David Klein says:

    Janet Heller, Easton Area High School, Easton, Pa. my Honors and AP English teacher 77/78 and 78/79.

  • Ayun says:

    Liz Ulen! Barow Davidian! The perfectly named Dwight Conquergood!

  • kasa says:

    Jennifer Putzi! Raymond Williams! Varun Begley! Sharon Zuber!

  • Karla Keffer says:

    Mary Caponegro! Robert Gross! David Ost!

  • Lisa Giordano says:

    Dru Overwijk! M.A. Knoke! Toni Layden-Rodgers, Patricia Laredo! Eric Martinsen! Mr. Seff!

  • Julie B says:

    Claire Van zant!

  • Claire says:

    Dr. Robert Scripko! Laura Costa! Rachel Hecker!

  • DebbiePee says:

    MRS. CARLETON! DR. DONALD ROEMER ! DONALD OLIVER!

  • Dan Colman says:

    A big shout out to Ms. Golin, Ms. Hunt, and Mr. Dickey!

  • Traci Burns says:

    KEVIN CANTWELL! MRS. PAT JENKINS! MRS. WATSON!!!

  • Lisa Cook Sem says:

    MARY BROWN, AP ENGLISH @ JERSEY VILLAGE HS IN HOUSTON! ANN CVETKOVICH @ UT AUSTIN! AND MY WONDERFUL, GLORIOUS DRAMA TEACHER FROM MIDDLE SCHOOL WHOSE NAME ESCAPES ME, EVEN THOUGH SHE CHANGED MY LIFE! I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR SMILING FACE! THANK YOU!

  • Brigitte Albert says:

    Rosemary Ludvigsen at W.A. Porter C.I. in the sixties. She taught French and German and she was a wonderful teacher, making the languages come alive for us!

    Lionel Scott at same high school. English teacher who took classes to the theatre, made us familiar with writers from the ancients to the contemporary, taught us critical thinking, all the while sharing his passionate dedication to the arts.

    Mr. Colhoun, Latin teacher who had a wicked sense of humour and who gave us a glimpse of life in ancient Rome while instilling a rigorous approach to learning.

    Thank you!

  • Karen says:

    Peter Davies! Sue Ann Loudon! Steven Edelglass!Tom Leabhart!

  • Carmela Courney says:

    Mrs. Gould, Mr. St Martin, Mary Hipp, George and Marg,Mom and Dad, Kimberly, Elsie Dillard, Jean Cavendish, Marilyn and Sali, my siblings, Margaret, Dakota, Marcia and Dennis, Arlene Highhorse, Cindy, Riva, Karen G., Mary, Samual Whitfield. Thank you to ‘s whoever sent this video to me today. It woke me out of a duldrum.

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