Dan Mallory, Student Speaker

In his four years at Duke, senior Dan Mallory has acted in six plays, started his own theater company--Where's Gus--and directed two productions. On Sunday, he'll take center stage at Duke one final time, as the student speaker for his graduation.

"I've spent a lot of my Duke career on the stage, so it should prove a natural successor I think... though I've never set foot on a football field," Mallory said with a grin.

And even if the English major refuses to be nervous about his time on stage--"I don't get nervous on stage. When you're speaking to 18,000 there's no point in getting jittery," Mallory said--he's very serious about his speech.

"I wanted to issue something other than OWe're standing on the edge of tomorrow,'" he said. "[My speech] is about the import of the personality we as Duke students should have cultivated by the time we graduate. They graduate people, not just students."

Mallory's point comes directly from experience. During his time at Duke, he has extended himself outside the academic classroom and strove to experience all the University had to offer. "I've loved committing myself extracuricularly," he said. "I've savored heartily every academic experience."

One of the academic experiences that Mallory most enjoyed was the year he spent abroad at Oxford University as a junior. He calls it the turning point of his time here, an adventure abroad that he will return to continue after graduation, studying 20th century British literature at Oxford--this time as a graduate student. It's evident that Mallory is looking forward to his time at Oxford, especially to keeping up with the theater he has so loved at Duke.

Being center stage is a joy for Mallory, who admits his friends think he only wanted to speak at graduation for the attention. "But that's only partially true," he said.

It is his light-hearted attitude that Mallory hopes to bring to the ceremony. To him, it's not as much about the honor of being chosen to speak, but what this will mean to those he's come to know at Duke.

"I'm glad I can make the event somewhat more meaningful for my friends," Mallory said. "[My friends and family] are pleased. They're also worried I'll slip up."

Mallory's admiration for his friends was the inspiration behind his speech as well. Though he confesses to being "a little inebriated" when coming up with his speech topic, he adds, "I was with my friends, and I thought, OThese are the people I'm going to miss.'"

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Sue Waisolek, a member of the selection committee for the student speaker, noted the unique nature of Mallory's speech.

"Dan's approach to the speech was clever and creative, and he captured the essence of the Duke experience, both undergraduate and graduate," she wrote in an e-mail. "His speech is thoughtful and provides depth while also allowing many opportunities for laughter."

Mallory first applied to be a commencement speaker in early March, when the University requested e-mail submissions from students. Eight students eventually auditioned their speech to the committee.

Mallory remarked that though he thought his reading went "really well," he wasn't convinced he would earn the role. "I wasn't wearing a suit, and the two guys who went before me were," he said.

In spite of Mallory's joking nature, it's clear he takes his role very seriously.

"I hope to remind [my classmates] about the value of the human experience at Duke," he said. "There are no 4 years I'd rather reprise."

And if it rains for his graduation speaker debut?

"I'll curse God," Mallory said with a laugh. "Curse God."

--Ellen Mielke


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