Photo by Robert Lehmann

2014 DTA Medal

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Ellery Washington

Distinguished Teacher 2014–15

Ellery Washington holds a D.E.A., an M.A. equivalent, in Comparative Literature from the Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. He has taught at Pratt Institute since 2007 and is currently an associate professor of Creative Writing on the Brooklyn campus.

He is the author of Buffalo, a novel forthcoming from Creston Books and a recipient of the PEN Center West Rosenthal Fellowship for Fiction and an International Black Writers Association Prize for Short Fiction. His writing has appeared in numerous journals, magazines, and literary anthologies, including The New York Times, Ploughshares, Out Magazine, The International Review, The Frankfurter Allgemeine, Berkeley Fiction Review, Nouvelle Frontières, and the best-selling collection of essays State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America.

As a screenwriter and script consultant, his credits include projects with Paramount Pictures, TriStar, Fox Searchlight, and a wide variety of independent directors and producers.

Having spent many years living abroad, primarily in France and Germany, he was a key force in developing the Pratt Summer in Paris program, so that his students might experience similar possibilities.

Commencement speech

I’m very honored and proud to be here, a part of this ceremony acknowledging the level excellence and achievement fostered by this great institution.

Honored to have received and been the bearer of the Distinguished Teacher Award this past academic year.

And honored, as I stand here facing you, the students graduating with awards this year, that I am a part of an institution dedicated to playing such a significant role in the development of so many outstanding individuals. Nowhere is Pratt’s commitment to instilling in its graduates aesthetic judgment, professional knowledge, collaborative skills and technical expertise more evident than in this room.

As you, the honors graduates of 2015, go forward, having succeeded in not only
achieving but surpassing the goals that we, your professors, and your peers, and this entire institution have challenged you to achieve, my hope is that you will carry with you the deeper lessons that Pratt has aimed to instill as you define what your future notions of success will be.

Outside of this room, you will inevitably hear, or be directly told, that success may be found in the amount of money you are able gain from your endeavors … You will hear or will be told that it can be measured by the number of times your name appears on the corners of buildings or on gallery walls, or on the covers of books you have written … You will inevitably hear or will be told that success can be measured by how many times your name is praised by others … but my hope for you is that no matter whether or not or to what degree any of these things may come to pass that you will define for yourselves a notion of success that is much more profound, a notion that is firmly grounded in the primary mission that is this institution’s greatest aim, to educate artists and creative professionals to be responsible contributors to society, and thereby being active participants in enriching our world.

Thank you.