Following dinner on an early November evening in Ringling College of Art and Design’s Soundstage A, the lights dimmed and the hall was filled with an expectant silence as the giant screen lit up and 13 students—the 2019 Trustee Scholars— took center stage. The distinction of Trustee Scholar is Ringling College’s highest honor, bestowed by the Board of Trustees. They are students who, in the eyes of the Trustees, best exemplify dedication, originality, brilliance, ambition, talent in their fields of study, and service to the College and to the community.
The selection process is daunting. Each department head and the Office of Student Life forwards two student nominees from the junior class of that area as its best representatives. These nominees demonstrate exceptional creative talent and communication skills; contribute to their departments, the College, and the community; and exhibit leadership and citizenship. The student nominees then prepare a written statement and a portfolio of their work for review by the Board of Trustees. The Board then deliberates and must choose the next year’s class of Trustee Scholars. They will tell you that it is among the hardest decisions they make as Trustees.
On that November evening, Soundstage A was filled with families, friends, faculty, staff, Trustees, and donors to celebrate the 2019 Trustee Scholars: Kaitlyn Guerrero, Business of Art & Design; María Bjarnadóttir, Computer Animation; Isa Pinto, Creative Writing; Saga Eklund, Fine Arts; Michael Boomer, Film; Jasleen Rehsi, Game Art; Martin Pohlmann, Graphic Design; Franki Colett, Interior Design; Inka Schulz, Illustration; Doug Alberts, Motion Design; Clark Perkins, Photography and Imaging; Lillian Braman, Visual Studies; and Emily Lamberski, Student Life. Each student spoke to the gathered audience about their journeys and the importance this honor has to them.
“After high school, I was looking for a college where I could combine the two worlds of business and art,” said Kaitlyn Guerrero in her address. “Other colleges couldn’t provide me with exactly what I wanted: A true integration of my two passions. I was not willing to settle for one or the other.”
Saga Eklund described herself as striving to be more than duktig, a Swedish word meaning both being good at something and being hard-working. She thanked her parents for introducing her to Sarasota, which led her to Ringling College of Art and Design and to becoming the artist she is today.
Ringling College is a place where students learn resilience, overcoming challenges to achieve success. Isa Pinto had to learn to view themself as an artist, being a Creative Writing major in a sea of visual artists. Clark Perkins, a nontraditional student with a family to care for, learned to see himself as just another Ringling College student, regardless of any age gap.
Friends, family, donors, faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees present learned that these 13 students have not only achieved academic excellence, but also reached beyond what they thought was possible with their art—crafting their own stories, hopes, and dreams with every piece produced. It was a celebration of these extremely talented young men and women. It would be simple to describe the night as one to remember. While it was that, it was so much more. It was an inspiration, a joyous recognizing of the transformative experience of living your passion and being your true self.
The 2019 Trustee Scholars are not just 13 excellent students who have brilliant futures ahead of them; they are the Visionaries—the big thinkers and doers—of the Soaring 20s. If the thunderous applause at the end of the evening was any indication, these students will have love and support follow them as they move into their professional careers, and beyond.
By Patricia Pete
Portraits By Matthew Holler ’11