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Commencement to feature speeches by environmental scientist, burgeoning playwright

April 29, 2010

  • Brad Jonas ’10

Lewis & Clark College’s 138th commencement ceremony will be held on May 9, 2010. Environmental scientist Mark Plotkin, president of the Amazon Conservation Team, will deliver the commencement address and Brad Jonas ’10 will serve as the student speaker.

Approximately 450 graduates earned degrees during the 2009-10 academic year with more than 80 majors in psychology; more than 50 degrees in the areas of chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, and physics; and 20 foreign language degrees. Graduates represent all regions of the United States, as well as countries from around the world: Australia, Canada, China, Jamaica, Japan, the Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates. 

While working toward his degrees in English and psychology, Jonas spent much of his spare time in the theater, honing his craft as an actor, comedian, and playwright. He participated in the improv group, SCRIPT—Serious Club Really Intense Performance Troupe and Once Upon a Weekend, a bi-annual theater project that puts on original plays that are cast, rehearsed, and performed in just 24 hours.

In this Q&A, Jonas waxes poetic and playful about his time at Lewis & Clark and how a liberal arts education has prepared him for his future in the theater.

Commencement seems to be a time of reflection about one’s college experiences. Have you been reflecting at all?

I have been reflecting, but I don’t have a very clear picture in my head at the moment.  It’s more of a “What just happened?” reflection than an “Ahh, such were the halcyon days of my college career” reflection. I don’t have time to organize my memories yet.

What are your happiest recollections of your time at Lewis & Clark?

My happiest recollections at Lewis & Clark?  Let’s see…fall, sophomore year, I had a play produced in the Black Box for the One-Act Festival called “The Not Very Good Detective or Machete Blues.” I was also starring in one of the plays, so I never got to be in the audience to watch mine performed, but I did get to sit behind the curtain in the wings and hear the audience’s response one night. It was such a rewarding experience to hear my words spoken out loud and to hear the audience laugh at them. I felt vindicated.  Other happy recollections: forming and performing with the Serious Club (Improvisational Comedy Club), poetry classes with Mary Szybist, and psychology classes with Dr. Bill, and…oh…let’s say eating big salads in the Bon. Also, kissing girls.

Thinking back, what made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

I came to Lewis & Clark because I was attracted to the Pacific Northwest, I romanticized rain, and I was offered a hefty amount of financial aid. I also liked the class sizes and international focus.

How has your time here helped you grow as an individual or helped you in how you think about your fellow human beings and the world?

I think being here has helped me turn into a person instead of a big, gray blob of I-don’t-know-what. That is to say, I think I have a much better understanding of myself that I would not have gotten elsewhere, and I’ve had a number of opportunities to develop as a person. It’s also helped me to see outside of myself more, and to celebrate differences in people. I can empathize with others more I think, which is important to me.

Is there anything you won’t miss about Lewis & Clark? The studying … the food … a demanding professor who shall remain nameless?

You know, my first reaction is to say I definitely won’t miss the all-nighters that were spent working on intense academic papers, but thinking about it now–and I could just be in a strange, floaty good mood from a lack of sleep—I might kind of miss that silly 4 a.m. feeling of reading through a paper one last time before going to bed. It’s kind of whimsical. Like “I totally earned those two hours of sleep I’m going to get tonight.”

Not to give too much away about our speech, but what kind of message do you hope to convey to your fellow graduates?

The message I want to convey is “Metaphors are stupid. College is over. Now do something that means something to you.”

You’ve been involved in theater and a member of an improv group. Are there challenges to delivering a prepared speech in front of a podium in a dynamic way?

I’m looking forward to the speech. I’m nervous because there were a lot of great speeches, and if I screw mine up then everyone will think, “Why didn’t we choose THAT OTHER speech instead by someone more PERSONABLE?” But my improv and theater experience should help. I’ll project at least, so everyone will definitely hear me if I make a mistake.

What do you think you’ll do with your degree in English and psychology?

Well, I think my English and psychology degrees will help in my writing. I’m really interested in developing interesting characters for playwriting and comedy writing. Also, I’m planning on taking some more improv classes in Chicago or New York, where all that nifty knowledge about human lives and behavior will certainly come in handy. Also, maybe I can impress strangers and convince them to give me money.


Jonas beat out eight other seniors for the privilege of addressing the Class of 2010.


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