A mostly-true story
The ceramics program at a Community College in New Mexico advertises that it can make your dreams come true. A few years ago the department chair was out on a hike when he received a call on his cell from a young woman in Oregon. “You said you can make my dreams come true, right?”
“Sure,” he replied.
“I want to become a professional artist.”
“Well you’ve come to the right place.” He scanned the beautiful mesas and thought about his friend who painted this very scene. He was struck with how many lives this program had affected.
She hesitated before responding. Must be pretty shy, he thought. “There’s something else.”
“I’d like to make a life-sized polar bear out of clay.”
Dumbfounded, the professor ran through the list of requirements in his mind.
“Hello?” The woman’s voice quavered.
“Yes, come on down here and get yourself enrolled.” He said. He might never understand why she cared so much about polar bears, but he truly believed in what he’d written on that advertisement.
“I can do that there?”
“It’s not going to be easy, but I like your gumption. I’ll get you your own room, and I’ll let the other professors know what you’ve got in mind. We’ll all help you in any way we can.”
Two months later she arrived in her ’94 Subaru, packed tight with clothes and futon mattress. In her first few classes she crafted small polar bears, about the size of your hand. As she refined her technique, she gained confidence. Her development in class was reflected in all areas of her life. Her quietness that used to keep her from making friends now came across as wisdom and a willingness to listen.
Yet the ceramics program started losing funding. Not because it wasn’t successful—it actually supported itself and earned extra money for the school—but because of a new president’s political vision and reorganization effort. The young woman persisted, and after two years of classes she was able to scale her polar bear up to about four feet tall. Her dream was coming true. Her new bear was even part of the art showcase at the end of year exhibit. Everyone saw it—including the new president.
The professor called his young student the day after the exhibit. He was breathless. “I’ve got some news, about your polar bear…”
“Yes?” She sounded worried.
“The president loved it so much she wants to buy it for the school and personally commission one for her residence.”
The woman burst into tears.
The professor started laughing. After she got a hold of herself, the woman challenged him, “What’s so funny?”
“The president also burst into tears when I told her your story!” He said. “Apparently she loves polar bears, and she saw what our department does in a whole new light. Congratulations, you just might have saved the ceramics program.”