BAC Graduation Valedictory Speech :: May 2009

Battle Wounds
BAC May 2009 Graduation Valedictory Speech
by Stephen Martyak

It is such an honor to be able to speak in front of you today, and I want to thank my amazing family for traveling long distances to share this moment with me.

Four score and seven years ago, or so it feels, we started our journey at the BAC. We came from various stages in our lives to tackle a rigorous, yet rewarding program. I know that I was not prepared for the lifestyle that comes with being a student at the Boston Architectural College. We work all day and educate ourselves all night. We are far from typical students. Most students would see this educational experience as one of sacrifice but we see it as one of great opportunity, well, opportunity that does not come without a price.

The night before the final presentation for one of my third year studio projects, I was trying to stay awake while cutting plexi-glass for my model. My fellow graduates probably know where I am going with this, but for our family and friends I must share the story. There I was on my living room floor crouched over a cutting mat with a straightedge in my right hand and an Olfa blade in the left. My soon-to-be-completed model was sitting behind me. I remember I was distracted by something on the television, took my eyes off the plexi, and the blade slipped. My hand flung backwards from the pain and the once pristine model now looked like a victim in a horror film. Never mind the visit to the hospital and the lack of sleep I got that night, I had a model sitting on a blood-splattered site. Instead of seeking pity from my instructors, I tweaked my concept so that my building was now an oasis in a blood stained world. We laugh now, but it sure was not funny then.

We all have these battle wounds, obviously some worse than others, but so do all architecture and design students. What sets us apart, and makes the BAC lifestyle so challenging is how we deal with them in practice. I showed up the next day at Flavin Architects with a bandaged finger on my clicking hand. My wonderful boss was very understanding, but work had to get done, deadlines had to be met, and I had to learn to do CAD with one hand, which is not easy.

Two and a half years later my wound has of course healed, but the scar still remains. As I head off to graduate school and as you set off on your various paths to becoming great architects and designers, I encourage you to not forget your battle wounds, your scars, but let them remind you of the tremendous accomplishment we made as being graduates of the Boston Architectural College. We were not typical students, so let us not be typical architects and designers either.

Thank you and congratulations!