On a day that started out overcast and cool, the sun broke through the clouds to shine on Oregon State University’s 149th commencement ceremony.
An estimated 23,000 friends, relatives and well-wishers were in attendance on Saturday, filling the east grandstand and south end zone seats of Reser Stadium for the occasion.
The Class of 2018 was the university’s largest yet, with a record 7,128 graduates taking home 7,435 degrees (289 students earned two degrees this year, while nine graduates collected three).
Microsoft Corp. Vice President Rani Borkar, who chairs the OSU Board of Trustees, congratulated the graduates and urged them to change the world for the better.
“You are entering a world that is literally reinventing itself,” she told them.
“Never before in our history has the possibility of one impacting the lives of billions been greater than it is now,” she added. “Each and every one of you has the power of transforming humanity.”
Corvallis native Harley Jessup, who graduated from Oregon State with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1976, was presented with an honorary doctorate prior to delivering this year’s commencement address.
Winner of an Oscar and an Emmy for visual effects design, Jessup worked at Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic before landing at Pixar Studios, where he has been a production designer and art director since 1996.
Heading up teams of artists who design the sets and characters for animated films, Jessup has played a leading role in creating the look and feel of such beloved movies as “Monsters, Inc.,” “Ratatouille” and “Coco,” winner of this year’s Academy Award for best animated feature.
“This year’s graduates grew up knowing many of Jessup’s characters,” Provost Ed Feser noted in his introduction.
Jessup said he was “kind of an oddball” in college, where he spent less energy focusing on his classroom studies than on what he called his “real work” – creating posters for campus events, covers for student magazines and other art projects.
He talked about the creative process, noting that he tries to give the artists on his team the freedom to take risks and try out “the boldest possible ideas,” even if they don’t always work out. And in an age of computer animation, he said, it’s important to remember that the perfect can be the enemy of the good.
“One thing I think I’ve learned at Pixar is that imperfection is sometimes a great thing,” Jessup said.
Computer technology has the ability to deliver technically perfect animated images, he said, but they can appear lifeless and cold.
“If you analyze a place that seems perfect in real life,” Jessup said, “you’ll find that the charm is in the imperfections.”
Rather than finding fault with themselves or others for inconsequential shortcomings, he told the graduates, it’s better to celebrate the world in all its flawed glory.
“Take the time to appreciate the imperfections,” he concluded.
“That is where beauty lies.”
The audience clapped and cheered when this year’s ROTC candidates stood to receive their commissions as junior officers in the U.S. armed forces and again when President Ed Ray asked all the veterans and active-duty service members in attendance to stand and be recognized.
There were more cheers as each group of graduates was introduced by college.
But the loudest applause of all came when Ray invited all of the graduating students to move their tassels to the left side of their mortarboards before receiving their diplomas.
“Congratulations to each and every one of you,” Ray said. “You make us very proud.”
Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.