Acceptance Speech of
Professor James Kelly
Distinguished Teaching Award Recipient
May 24, 2007
This year my spring semester culminated in a long and
arduous week serving on a search committee with seven of my colleagues from the
Arts and Communication division, any one of whom could—indeed should—be
standing here instead of me. I don't
recall ever being in the midst of such talent, intellect, passion, and
commitment. Our charge was to select and recommend for hire a new faculty
member in Fine Arts. We interviewed and then witnessed a teaching demonstration
from one qualified and talented candidate after another and then engaged in a
discussion of the relative merits, strengths, and weaknesses of each. The
selection process was not an easy one. During our discussions I was privy to
some of the most finely nuanced, insightful, perceptive, and impassioned
arguments I have even experienced. As we assessed each candidate, invariably
the discussion would evolve inexorably toward the same focal point—"How
will this candidate serve our students? How will our students respond to this candidate? Will this
candidate translate into the classroom in a way that will relate to our students? Our students, our
students, our students became almost a recurring mantra in all of our postinterview
deliberations. For me, that's what
the week turned out to be about—a vivid demonstration of the passion for
teaching and commitment to our students that are emblematic not only of our
little enclave of a search committee but of the entire teaching staff at Mercer County
Community College. Thank you Kathi Paluscio,
Mike Welliver, Monique Simon, Jodi
Person, Kyle Stevenson, Michael
Glass, and Dean Judy Ehresman for reminding me of why I have always been so
proud to be a part of this faculty. Thank you, also, for allowing me the
privilege of being your colleague and friend, and for putting up with my
sometimes-incorrigible sense of humor. And thank you for your camaraderie and
sparkling repartee that made long hours seem like minutes.
graduates: this day is not about
Distinguished Teaching Awards, nor is it about Boards of Trustees, or college
presidents, or local political luminaries. We are here to honor you.
This is you day! Seize it: Embrace it: Celebrate it.
You stand at the
threshold of your future—the horizon endless; the possibilities limitless. The
late Joseph Campbell, the renowned teacher, scholar, expert of matters of the
human psyche, and one of my favorite writers, summed up the secret to a happy
and productive life in three simple but profound words: "Follow your bliss." Find that thing, that interest, that activity that makes you
feel most alive and pursue it. Pursue it with all the passion, dedication, and
commitment to excellence that you can summon from yourself and things will have
a tendency to work out. I followed mine, and it led me to a surprising and
so glad it did.
To my music
graduates, several of whom are here today—Liz, Steve, Dennis, Jessica, Jim,
Zach, and Chris—thank you for allowing me into your lives and for being the
sacred reason I wake up each morning and come to work. Thank you for enriching
To my peers—thank
you for this particular honor and for the daily honor of being counted among
you. We're an awesome team.
There's a woman I know. "The mystery woman," my
students call her. "The phantom." They're convinced she doesn't
exist. That she's just a figment of
my demented imagination. I assure you she does exit. She has been my love, my
best friend, my life partner, my inspiration, my wife of 32 years, without
whose unflinching support, encouragement, and love I would not have been able
to pursue my dreams. I certainly would not be standing here before you today.
Kim, thank you. I love you.
It's easy to grow weary amid the whirlwind of work
that is a Mercer semester. For periods of time it's
just as easy to lose sight of how blessed one is. Then a day like this comes
along and the stark, simple, obvious truth hits you in a blinding epiphany:
Great wife, great students, great colleagues who turn
out to be great friends, great job, great life.
I'm an extraordinarily lucky man. Thank you.