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    Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient: Greg Gandy

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    Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

    When looking at the cityscapes of professional artist Greg Gandy, the smell of mid-afternoon city air fills the room as the warmth of the sun starts to rise and the streets of San Francisco become illuminated. This is the way Gandy’s viewers, instructors and students talk about the realism of his work and his incredible talent. 

    “All of my work, whether it’s cityscape, landscape or still life, everything I paint is really close and personal to me,” Gandy said. “I paint San Francisco because I’ve lived here for over 13 years and have watched it change so much.”

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    2017 Valedictorian: Ryan Boone

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    Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

    Ryan Boone’s journey to the Academy of Art University was a bumpy one. But those bumps eventually led to Boone being honored as valedictorian at the Spring 2017 Commencement ceremony on May 10 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. 

    As he approached the podium in his graduation cap and gown, he started his speech, loud and with conviction. He began by telling the audience it took him five years to earn his master’s in architecture and he did it with two children and a full-time job. He explained that he is not alone in facing challenges on the journey to graduation and that this moment represents a moment not of the past, but of the future. 

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    Honorary Doctorate Recipient: Simon Ungless

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    Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

    Before Gladys Perint Palmer met Simon Ungless in the mid-’90s, she was caught between deciding to scrap or rebuild the School of Fashion’s textile program at Academy of Art University.

    As the school’s then-department director, she paid a visit to her alma mater, Central St. Martin’s, an art school in London where she was introduced to Ungless. At the time, he was working at St. Martin’s textile print shop, and the meeting of the two minds shifted the School of Fashion’s narrative entirely.

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    Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient: Kenneth Villamil

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    Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

    For all the titles Kenneth Villamil has held throughout his career—stylist, painter, art director, interior architect, vice president—his Seton Hall University painting teacher Ira Greenberg gave him a more proper designation when Villamil was 19 years old: creative problem solver. 

    In Greenberg and Villamil’s eyes, that essentially meant becoming a designer. With his teacher’s guidance, Villamil scraped together a portfolio that would land him a full-time design position at a Chelsea firm in New York City.

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    2017 Valedictorian: Ariel Magidson

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    Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

    Academy of Art University valedictorian and School of Interior Architecture & Design major Ariel Magidson hasn’t taken a single semester off since she arrived at the school in 2014. In addition to the regular spring and fall semesters, Magidson took classes every summer intersession, summer semester and winter intersession throughout her Academy education. 

    “I treat [school] like a job,” she said. “I may not have earned money, but I’m earning a grade and I want to do my best every single time. Everything I put out is to the best of my ability and if it’s not, I’ll go back and do it again.”

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    Honorary Doctorate Recipient: Diane Baker

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    Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

    In her 14 years at the Academy of Art University, School of Acting Executive Director Diane Baker’s presence served as a sort of gateway into Hollywood’s past and present. When she and I met in her office at 466 Townsend, she recounted her life for me via anecdote after anecdote. Within each one, she mentions a name or two of someone from her voluminous circle; not on purpose, but that’s just what happens when you speak to someone with a vast network.

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