Philip Horn, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, as well as a man who started his post-college career as an actor, advised the 2006 graduating class that there are no small parts in life and no small actors, only roles that graduates can aspire to play with the utmost skill and conviction.
The graduating class of 337 students were awarded bachelor of arts (97) or bachelor of science degrees (240) at the ceremony today presided over by Juniata College President Thomas R. Kepple Jr. In addition, the college awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Barry Halbritter, president and CEO of Midstate Tool and Supply Co, based in Altoona, Pa., one of the top three suppliers of automotive tools and supplies in the nation.
Halbritter, a 1965 graduate of Juniata, has been an active volunteer for Juniata College, serving on the board of trustees and as campaign chair for Juniata's Uncommon Outcomes capital campaign from 1998 to 2005, helping the college exceed its original $70 million goal by 47 percent, to $103 million.
Halbritter and his wife, Marlene were the lead donors for the construction of the Marlene and Barry Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts, an $8.3 million project that combined the renovation of Rosenberger Auditorium with the addition of a new ultra-modern theatre space and lobby. The couple also donated funds for the construction of the Halbritter Plaza of the Cloister residence hall, and fund three student scholarships. Barry Halbritter serves on the board of directors of the Blair County Arts Foundation and the Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation. He is a past member of the board of directors of the Altoona Symphony Orchestra.
"Our compulsion for creativity and for expression of our imagination is surely part of what defines us as humans. This seems to be in our nature. It is a powerful resource that is endlessly self-renewing," Horn said in his commencement address.
Horn explained that the gifts of art and creativity can be directly applied to any career or any situation in life, "As precious as the arts are, I do not believe that the arts are some hothouse orchid that needs meticulous care too thrive, but rather a hardy and nutritious plant that will grow under any circumstance from any crack. Art is inevitable. Art is about being human."
"After years of working and studying I realized that everything important I learned, I could have learned, (or should have learned) by studying acting and theatre," Horn said. "The lessons were all there -- I just didn't apply them outside the theatre,"
Horn underlined his central point of the commencement address, saying, "Effective planning is not only about imagining a better future. it must not be about what you could do if you had everything you wish you had, it is always about what you can accomplish with what you really have. "The important lesson is to surround yourself with quality and diversity. Our friends are our friends because they are similar to us. Good for feeling comfortable, not so good for learning. Seek diversity. Seek discomfort. Seek challenges."
"We are given a new play every day, our work is about finding a different, or unusual, or compelling way to tell the same truth," he said."
A 2006 Graduation Pledge of social and environmental responsibility was signed by more than 200 seniors, and the pledge states, "I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work." The 2005 Senior Class Gift is contributions to a classroom renovation in Good Hall and the renovation of space in Ellis Hall into a student union. About 84 percent of the class contributed to the gift.
Horn has been executive director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts since 1993. During his tenure, the agency has received the highest funding in its history and has doubled its number of grant awards and expanded its services. The state agency was named among the top 50 "most creative, forward-thinking, results-driven government programs" by Harvard's Innovations in American Government Awards.
He also created Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, which brought together several major public and private arts funding organizations to support touring groups within and outside Pennsylvania's borders. He was instrumental in establishing the Center for Arts Management and Technology at Carnegie Mellon University, and helped develop the eGrant program.
Horn earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1975 from California State University, Northridge, and went on to earn a master's degree in theatre in 1979 from Michigan State University.
He serves on the board of directors of the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and is founding co-chair of the Japan/U.S. Cultural Trade Network with Arts Midwest. He received the Pittsburgh Convention and Visitor's Bureau Travel and Tourism Advocate of the Year Award and the Westmoreland Society Gold Medal. He received the 2005 Gary Young Award from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Before coming to Pennsylvania, he worked at the California Arts Council.