Dean Allyson Green's Gala 2017 Speech

Good evening! Are you ready for a joyful night? I am! Tonight we gather together in this beautiful immersive environment designed to surround you with the energy that reverberates throughout our school every day. We feature the talent of our students in tribute to two magnificent alumni. You are all a part of the performance, because every one of you creates our community and contributes to our success.

I offer three words: Aspire, Inspire, & Gratitude

Inspire. Who inspires you? What fills you up, provoking a spark, the exhilaration, or provocation of something, someone, who causes you to inhale, holding your breath with wonder?

Aspire. Where do you aim? What is your dream, that yearning direction, that fire in the belly and passion in your heart, which causes you to rise up and soar - to exhale with a “WOW!”

Inspire, Aspire - Two verbs, animating the noun of Gratitude.

And that’s where we begin, in gratitude. Our gratitude fills this room, in all the projected scenes of the activities of this year. Fill the empty frames hanging above your heads with the faces of the thousands of students to come. I hope you will see, hear, and experience an evening that will inspire YOU.

Tonight is so important for the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Why?

Your generosity has allowed us to raise over 1.1 million dollars to support the critical needs of our students.  Our work is more important than ever – We are nurturing artists and scholars who are leaders and change agents, who excel in a range of fields, and are engaged with the stories and critical issues of our world. No matter the discipline, we have a singular vital mission -- to support, challenge and celebrate our students first.

I have more to share with you about our dreams, but first let’s express our gratitude to those who inspire.

Let’s start with a cheer of gratitude for ALL of the remarkable students, future stars, who are performing for you tonight!

We celebrate and thank our extraordinary Honorary Chairs Hilaria and Alec Baldwin.

We thank our dedicated Host Committee:   

  • Alexandra & Scot Ackerman
  • Stefania & Mark Magidson
  • Tracy Stein & Marco Masotti

And the wonderful Pat & Walter Moore, chairs of our Parents Council

Our thanks to our Director Sam Scalomoni and to the entire creative team, our Tisch development team, and our army of volunteers, generous friends and sponsors who have truly created magic tonight.

I am very grateful for the support and inspiration I receive from the Tisch Dean’s Council led by Andrew Tisch and Alec Baldwin.

Thank you to council members who are here this evening:

  • Alec Baldwin
  • Colin Callender
  • Sharon Chang
  • Mitch Glatt
  • Spike Lee
  • Jane Rosenthal
  • Ann and Andrew Tisch
  • Jon Tisch

Our deepest gratitude to the 43 extraordinary members of our Parents Council here who support us in so many ways throughout the year.

Our Gratitude for our dedicated and talented faculty and staff at the Tisch School of the Arts, who inspire our students every day with your passion for your noble work.

Our gratitude for all of our parents, families, and friends; THANK YOU for creating, nurturing, and supporting our incredible students.

Our gratitude for our alumni, over 30,000 strong, who have created a network of excellence around the world.

We are grateful to be a part of the global network of New York University.  Thank you to the many members of the NYU Senior Leadership Team, and NYU Trustees who are here tonight, who lead by example, lives of great service in education.

In particular, we are grateful for the support given to the Tisch School of the Arts by our President Andrew Hamilton and his wife Jennie. You inspire us with your dedication and boundless energy. President Hamilton has a great vision for our university, and we so appreciate that he is here tonight to say a few words to you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me to welcome President Andrew Hamilton


Thank you President Hamilton for your support and leadership.

What inspires you? Our students inspire me each and every day, and that is why I have the best job in the world. Last year we celebrated our 50th anniversary and tonight we set our aim forward. Tomorrow will be the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech at Riverside Church “Beyond Vietnam.” There is much inspiration to receive from this leader and I am motivated by his prescient observation spoken fifty years ago:

“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today.

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

In these challenging times when every moment seems to clamor for our attention for breaking news, perhaps there is nothing more important than to do our work. There is much at stake. What is needed in the fierce urgency of NOW is horizontal, collaborative thinking – the connections we forge support multiple acts that can and will collectively shape our future.

At Tisch we are a community of storytellers; artists, scholars, producers, creators who have a passion for our work, a fire in our belly.  We continue to learn by doing, and with a love of process for a lifetime. 

Our students, faculty and alumni are from 40 countries, and all of the states, and they have gone on to fulfilling careers that have garnered multiple awards. THEY are telling our stories, and championing the unheard voices. Our students are encouraged to discover their own singular voice, from the perspective that comes from a unique life lived. They become the artists on the frontlines armed with the power of an image, of words, to effect positive change.

All of us in this room tonight have the opportunity through education to shape and impact lives.  Think of that. What is at stake? As artists we have to keep ourselves on the frontier of curiosity, to imagine outside of boxes, to break the rules.  We embrace the unknown. Our school has the word “radical” in our DNA.  What are the values and ethics that we instill in our radical mission? What does it mean to be a citizen today? We are a part of an open, welcome and inclusive community that believes that the free flow of ideas across all kinds of borders is crucial to innovation.  We build bridges of empathy, not walls. We engage in conversations that are often difficult, grapple with different points of view. It is where we must be.

James Baldwin famously proclaimed that, “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  For civilizations to heal and flourish, we NEED the force of the arts.

Can you remember the first time you were inspired? Who or what inspires you now?

I am inspired by our honorees tonight: two alumni from our Graduate Acting Program, Danai Gurira and André Holland. Danai and André are brilliant artists. Both are fearless. And both tell stories that are often overlooked or unheard.  They are also friends, as so many Tisch alumni become, shaped by training by dedicated teachers who instilled deep values.

André’s journey began in Alabama, and he said in an interview, “The kind of career I want to have is one that allows me to be a part of projects that have a real wonderful story to tell, that have the potential to actually impact peoples lives. Particularly young people.” Born in Iowa and raised in Zimbabwe, Danai once said, “My desire to write came out of the fact that there was a dearth of stories that I felt were important, that I wanted to see told.” Her work illuminates the familiar and eliminates the concept of the “other.” They are both change-makers and our students aspire to follow in their footsteps.

I am inspired by countless stories of changed lives through connections made at NYU Tisch.  Last spring our artist in residence Pharrell Williams mentored our students in the Clive Davis Institute. A video went viral when he exhaled a “Wow” at the talent of student Maggie Rogers. A few weeks after graduation she had signed a deal with Capital Records, headed out on a world tour and recently appeared on The Tonight Show. Pharrell Williams will be given an honorary degree by NYU this year, and will inspire us as the commencement speaker at Yankee Stadium.  And our Tisch Salute speaker will be drama alumna theater creator Moises Kaufman, whose journey as a Venezuelan took him all the way to the Medal of the Arts awarded by President Obama this fall.

As we aspire to educate artists like these, we set our sights on the space we have long needed to cross disciplines. We are thrilled that we will finally have the facilities that our students deserve in a remarkable new complex that NYU is building at 181 Mercer Street. 

Like NYU itself, 181 Mercer does a lot. More classrooms than any other NYU building, plus instructional, rehearsal, practice, and performance spaces for NYU's drama and music programs, including NYU's first professional-level proscenium, fly-loft theatre. Study space and a Commons for a university without a quad. A sports center that will be home for NYU's student/athletes and those looking to stay fit. Housing for freshmen. Housing for faculty. And dedicated space for the local community. One building; many purposes.

Let’s give a round of applause to the vision of architects Richard Maimon of Kieran Timberlake and Carl Krebs from firm Davis Brody Bond who are here tonight. They’ve designed something extraordinary for NYU and for our community. Thank you!    

At Tisch we recognize that new information technology has transformed the way young people communicate and learn – collectively and collaboratively. The story telling technologies -may be changing, but our core values remain. We are setting a course for our School that leverages the Tisch brand of excellence and experience in traditional film and performing arts, with the new technologies of emerging media. We intend to be at the forefront of these changes in a newly renovated building for Media, Technology and the Arts at 370 Jay Street in Brooklyn. This building will create a crossroads collaboratory for our students to intersect with each other, as well as with our colleagues in the Tandon School of Engineering, across the University, and within the rich community of creative organizations in Brooklyn.

Our campus is changing, and so is the world around us. The arts are more important than ever. We are grateful to the University for their significant investment in these remarkable new centers of learning.

And to all of you here tonight, THIS is why your support means so much to our students. From the scholarships that support diverse voices from around the world (including Alabama and Zimbabwe) to have a chance to follow their dreams at NYU, to critically needed funding for our programs and facilities, your generosity is transforming the lives of students like the ones you will see tonight.

Who inspires you? What makes you hold your breath with wonder?

Where do you aim, to what do you aspire?

What causes you to rise up and soar - to exhale with a WOW!

For what, for whom, are YOU grateful?

Imagine what might happen if each of us went back to our lives tonight after this gala with a renewed commitment to aspire to deeper values, to lives of empathy and learning, to tell the stories that will inspire, and to offer gratitude for all we have.

To whom much is given, much is asked. 

Thank you for giving forward tonight.