Geneseo celebrates the 47th Commencement on May 18. /FILE PHOTO BY KEITH WALTERS'11
Russell Allen ’13 found his voice on the stage at Geneseo. After switching from the childhood and special education program his freshman year, Allen became a double major in speech pathology and theatre.
“I finally recognized that after years of telling myself theatre couldn’t be my focus, in actuality, it always was,” Allen says. “My heart was always in performing.”
Allen is most proud of his role as Leo Frank in the production of "Parade" last fall. At first the role was difficult; he felt his character was so similar to himself that his performance felt superficial.
“My director realized that until I stopped being afraid of making Leo unlikable, I would never let him become fully fleshed out,” Allen says. “Once I was able to tap into his more undesirable qualities — the ones that made him more of a person — he really came to life.”
In doing so, Allen came to terms with parts of his own personality— even the parts he’s not proud of. “I really explored myself by embodying him,” he says. Allen is thankful for the theatre department’s focus on student work, and helping him develop.
“I think that sets our department apart from other programs,” Allen says. “There is so much collaboration and trust in what students have to offer and it’s really inspiring. Being a product of that environment has fostered confidence in myself and my peers.”
As he set to graduate, Allen has been interviewing and auditioning for various positions with theatres across the Northeast.
“I’m confident that the education I got at Geneseo, and I don’t just mean academically, has equipped me to do just about anything I want to,” Allen says. “I feel empowered as an individual to be successful in any field because I’ve become a capable and educated person.”
On May 18, Allen will join more than 1,200 other seniors as they celebrate four years of hard work, a new degree and opportunities.
“The people I’ve met,” Allen says. “I’ve been really luck to be given a whole lot of love and I’ll never forget it.”
Two ceremonies will be held in the Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena. The college will continue its long tradition of inviting Distinguished Teaching Professors to speak at commencement. Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Ronald Herzman will address students and their families.
“Ron Herzman is one of the very best teachers anywhere, a national award winner, and a superb teacher of teachers,” says President Christopher C. Dahl. “Almost by definition he will have interesting things to say to our graduates. On a more personal level, Ron was my first ‘boss’ at Geneseo. When I came to Geneseo in 1994, he was chair of the English department and warmly welcomed me to our academic community. Things have come full circle now. This will be my last commencement as president, and I am looking forward to hearing from my old boss and longtime colleague in English.”
Dahl will also bestow an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Russell Peck, a renowned Middle English literature Professor at the University of Rochester and scholar who has worked with Geneseo students.