Stephen Tyler Davis MFA '16:
President, Graduate Student Senate

Stephen Tyler Davis MFA '16Good afternoon faculty, staff, family, friends, and masters,

My name is Stephen Tyler Davis and I have had the great honor to serve as the president of the Graduate Student Senate for the class of 2016. I want to start by saying thank you to each and every person under this tent today. Obviously, thank you to my classmates and to the extraordinary leaders that led us through our graduate path. But also thank you to the parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends who have enriched our lives to make us the people that we are. Thank you for being such an important part of shaping these beautiful humans. Many have become some of my dearest friends—inspirational writers, theatre makers, teachers, scholars, counselors, dancers, artists—you are my heart.

My time at ol’ Sadie Lou has been a wild adventure. Good days, some not so good days, packed full of inspiring classes and fun-filled campus events that brought us together. From serving on Karen Lawrence’s general committee, to planning graduate orientation and graduation, to meeting with the Board of Trustees, all while trying to be a student—there were times when I thought to myself: “I’m a theatremaker. Why do I care so much?”

The reason I even got involved with the senate in the first place was because my Don told me to join GSS and get money for the theatre department. Well, it quickly became much more than that for me. I care because of all of you wonderful, crazy people. Day to day, I met so many members of this community that I respect for their diligence in maintaining the integrity and one of a kind pedagogy of this institution. And after long days of classes, meetings, rehearsals, shows, rehearsals, homework, and rehearsals, I might also have had to clean up a bunch of beer bottles after a GSS meeting. But I’m not mad about it. No. I loved every second and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I love service, and I love serving awesome people who work hard to develop their gifts to share with the world. That’s you.

Last week, I was having dinner at the president’s house after a Trustee meeting and I was venting about my anxiety about writing this speech. I was sitting next to and older gentleman who serves on our board named Obie. I said “Obie, the bar has been set. The gauntlet has been thrown. What can I say to inspire those fellow masters who have been so inspirational to me? What wisdom can I give to send us all off into the world?” Without hesitation, Obie pulled out a notepad and pen and began to draw a diagram on this sheet of paper. “Stephen, I love Sarah Lawrence College... and I have a lot of advice to give, but there is one thing that has helped me the most along the way.”

He told me he was once brought on as a consultant for a Fortune 500 company. After perusing business models, mission statements, budgets, and growth strategies—it was one tiny diagram that made all the difference.
So I said, “Okay Obie, I hear you—what is this diagram you speak of?”

He said “You’ve got to tell all those graduates to sail the 7 C’s”

“7 seas? So travel?”

“No—“C’s! C’s! The letter C.”

I said “okay, go on…”

He did. Obie slid this hand-drawn diagram across the dinner table to me, a kind of web of bubbles—each filled with different words that began with the letter C.

This was what he said...

The center bubble read “Character.” Character is the nucleus of our role in making a difference in this world. Our integrity, our energy, our passions, our foundation, our bruises and scars, our hard lessons, our failures, the sugar and spice and everything nice that makes up who we are is the epicenter of this model.

Extending from Character was “Compassion”—not pity, but compassion—empathy for others. Extending a hand to those in need.

Then, “Contribution.” You get what you give. The more we listen and serve, the more we receive. We grow the most when we contribute to the wellbeing of others—with kindness, patience, and understanding. Make work that gives back.

After that, “Commitment”—giving yourself fully to a collaborator, punctuality, accountability, and seeing a task through even when we get frustrated and want to give up.

“Competence.” Knowing your strengths, knowing your weaknesses, and knowing when to listen and when to learn. But beyond awareness, owning your competence with an assurance that you have what it takes to inspire.

Then, “Compatibility”—Obie said, and I agree, “You may be the most genius artist or the most prolific writer, but if you are a horrible to work with—well what’s the point?” It’s the art of graciously adapting to those around us without losing our charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.

Lastly, “Community.” Form a community of players around you that you trust. Surround yourself with people that are better than you, who can lift you up, and catch you when you fall.

As I say goodbye to all of you, I feel rich in our sense of community. I am a better person because of each of you. We have come together, achieved great things, and we have even greater things before us. So there it is—Obie’s 7 C’s. Take them or leave them. I myself have a lot of work to do, but I honestly feel that no matter what our field of study, these are the common threads that will connect us as exemplary products of this institution. I hope to catch you on the waves. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to Sarah Lawrence. It has been a pleasure to meet you and work with you. I wish you all the best.