University of Pittsburgh

400 Craig Hall

Beginnings

When I was barely a teenager, my grandmother gave me a birthday gift that still astonishes me. It was amazing to me then because I couldn’t believe that I would be on the same continent, in the same city, and on the same acre of land as my musical idols. I’m boggled even now, because I realize that my stoic, sometimes stern, and mostly ancient grandmother somehow knew exactly what to buy a teenage girl in the summer of 1965. She bought me a pair of tickets to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium.

So, on a steamy August night, my Beatles-loving friend, Pam, and I were shepherded onto a mobbed subway by Pam’s father, who seemed as overwhelmed as we were.  At Shea Stadium, he took us to our section gate and reluctantly sent us on our way, alone, except for the 55,000 or so other giddy teenagers who were there that night.

That event still resonates with me, all these years later. It wasn’t just seeing  John, Paul, George, and Ringo alive, in front of us, rather than on the Ed Sullivan Show or on our favorite album cover. (Though, I admit, the Fab Four were roughly the size of ants as we watched the center-field stage from our stadium seats.) It also was about being in the hubbub of New York City that night, taking the Flushing No. 7 car to Shea Stadium in a literal crush of humanity, and beginning to feel the glimmers of just how exciting life might become.

Since that August night in 1965, I’ve seen and heard and experienced many other artful wonders that have opened up an ever-larger world to me, among them the vibrant, startling paintings of Vincent Van Gogh;  Judith Jamison flowing across a stage in the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s Cry, River; the exquisite marble sculptures of Gian Lorenzo Bernini and the joys of Henry Moore’s primitive stone shapes; Jamaica Kincaid reading her lyrical prose; the spare elegance of Japanese ikebana; the luminous voice of countertenor Bejun Mehta in Handel’s opera Julius Caesar. Art opens the door to new perceptions, new possibilities.

I’m especially fond of this issue of Pitt Magazine, because several of the features are about the transforming power of art. Better yet, this issue shows the broader connections between transformational experiences, University life, and the lasting influence of higher education. After all, on a grand scale, the University exposes us to life’s possibilities and encourages us to see more, to understand more, to seek more.

Driving home from the office this week, I noticed a bumper sticker on the station wagon ahead of me.  It read: The truly educated never graduate. In this season of graduations, it’s helpful to remember that we mark the end of University life with a ceremony called Commencement—the beginning of something new.

That’s the promise of art, of education, of life. There’s always something ahead of us to be discovered. Astonishing.

Cindy Gill

Editor in Chief

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