By Laina Sweetney
Florida Southern’s Branscomb Auditorium was bustling with students, faculty, alumni and friends on Friday, March 31 for FSC’s annual Founder’s Day Convocation. The program honored the FSC Class of 1967 in celebration of the 50 anniversary of their graduation.
Each year during Founder’s Day, FSC appoints an Honorary Chancellor who embodies FSC’s mission of preparing students to make a positive and influential impact on the world. This year, FSC appointed Dr. Glen D. Lowry, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, as the 83 Honorary Chancellor in FSC history.
As director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Dr. Lowry has made it his mission to enrich the world through modern and contemporary art and design. During his Honorary Chancellor address, Lowry discussed the severity of the social and political unrest in today’s society. He credited this discontent to the natural tendency for individuals to avoid healthy discussion of issues that matter.
“We have become used to living in our own echo chambers,” Lowry said of the current state of society. “We read only the news we want to read, talk only to people who share our ideas and values. Instead of being constantly exposed to divergent and contradictory opinions, we remain in a bubble of what we know and believe, regardless of how accurate or relevant that may be.”
What one might ask, is this to do with the arts? Lowry believes that art should be used as a powerful tool to challenge and enlighten the human experience. He posed the question, “what kind of world do we want to live in” and encouraged the audience to think critically about how art provides society with a platform to think about difficult and disturbing problems that aren’t discussed enough.
“We have a lot to learn from the arts about how we deal with difficult issues,” Lowry said. “Artists constantly explore innovative ways of understanding our world and they challenge our norms. They live without intellectual safety nets…and explore issues in new and revealing ways that compel us to see and think differently.”
Lowry’s discussion comes at an important time. As the government contemplates the possibility of the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, his address provided a great moment to reflect on art’s impact on the world. He said that art in all its manifestations is “what defines us as human beings.”
Lowry also commended Florida Southern’s commitment to the advancement of the arts. He praised FSC’s new affiliation with the Polk Museum of Art which will help expand and enhance the conversations that are so necessary for our culture. He believes museums play an important role in the importance of art because they are centers where we learn from artists both past and present. Lowry concluded his address with a heartfelt charge to FSC students.
“Every one of you who are privileged to be a part of this great college have something to offer and have a remarkable chance to affect the world you live in,” said Lowry. “What you do matters. Above all, remember to think like an artist, take risks and believe in the possibility of the future.”
Other individuals recognized at this year’s Founder’s Day Convocation included FSC Professor of Business Administration Dr. Cindy Harden who received the Ben & Janice Wade Outstanding Teaching Award. FSC mathematics major Jessica Finocchiaro was the Class of 2017 Honor Walk Award recipient. Joseph Capitano, Sr., M. Clayton Hollis, Jr. and Carol Sipe were bestowed the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for their outstanding leadership in their professions and communities.