2017 Valedictorian: Ryan Boone


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. 

“It is a doorway, a threshold, that once we pass through, we will never be the same,” said Boone at the ceremony. “We will find ourselves on a new journey, an incredible journey, where we no longer focus our eyes inward, exclusively toward our personal education. Instead, we must turn our eyes toward the world, toward the people around us, toward the heavens and toward the next generation of artists.”

At 35 years old, Boone, originally from Colorado, now lives in Bainbridge, Wash., where he works at Coates Design Architects. Growing up, architecture was never an industry Boone saw himself in, but after earning his B.F.A. in film production from Chapman University and working for many years in the entertainment industry in the Los Angeles area as a producer, cinematographer, writer and later an educator, Boone knew these industries were not his passion.

“I realized this wasn’t right for me,” he said. “I didn’t wake up thinking about it.”

He did however, stay up late on Google Sketch designing recording studios and pieces of furniture, but he thought to himself, “I can’t just quit my job and go back to school.”

Then, Boone found the accredited online School of Architecture at the Academy. Talking of his gratefulness, Boone said it was solely the online program that enabled him to go back to school and today be working as an architect. 

This is because while earning his master’s degree Boone had two babies and a wife to help support, something he attributes his academic success to along with wanting to reach his fullest potential and produce the highest quality work.

“I had this obsession to just work hard and do my best,” he said. “If I’m going to do this, I’m really going to do this. I stopped trying for the grades and decided I just wanted to make excellent projects.


Valedictorian Ryan Boone. Photo by Bob Toy.

It was more than simply a mindset however that earned Boone his valedictorian title. It was late night after late night. He often worked 12-hour days where he put his kids to bed and after went back to the computer until 1 a.m. The hard work really paid off however. Eric Lum, Boone’s mentor and online director of the School of Architecture, praised Boone’s passion, dedication, willingness to try different styles of design and independent thinking. 

“Ryan is someone who’s very passionate about the profession,” Lum said. “He genuinely enjoys what he does and is not just a strong student, but someone who strives to be leader in the profession.”

Boone was able to showcase these skills professionally during his time at the Academy when he worked at MG2 in Irvine, Calif., designing retail environments as well as at Dougherty in Costa Mesa, Calif., designing schools. Boone left his mark at Dougherty, where he implemented a new visual marketing tactic that it still uses today. 

Diego Matzkin, project manager, and Boone’s supervisor at Dougherty, said Boone was innovative, amazing with people and had an insatiable need to learn. 

“He did some great innovative things while he was here,” Matzkin said. “He always had a willingness to learn and to improve. He was always taking on new challenges and very focused on finding solutions.” 

Instructors, coworkers and friends of Boone say he pours all of himself into everything he does all while having a smile and positive attitude.

 At the ceremony, Boone told the graduates they have a responsibility to “act on inspiration and create something that moves people and inspires generations,” he said. 

His speech continued: “We may be from different countries, different states and different cultures, but we all have one thing in common. We grew into new people, new artists through Academy of Art University.

Boone ended his passionate speech saying an incredible journey is possible when broken down into small steps. “We can do it. We have done it. We will do it again. My fellow artists, our greatest work is yet to come.”