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Outstanding Professor Celebrates Outstanding Students

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Warning that this year’s Outstanding Professor Presentation would be “slightly unusual,” Robert Istad, professor of music, shared the outpouring of praise for his 2015-16 Outstanding Professor Award with fellow educators and his students.

“I believe there’s not just one outstanding professor at Cal State Fullerton … We have outstanding educators in every single department. That is why, today, I’m going to let our amazing students do the talking for me. I’m going to allow them to show you why Cal State Fullerton’s College of the Arts has become one of the finest in the nation.” 

Indeed, student talent filled Clayes Performing Arts Center’s Meng Concert Hall. Entertainment art-animation senior Daniel Khachatoorian showed a clip from his animation piece “The Five Miseries”; dance alumna and dance major Chelsea Neiss and Jonathan Kim were featured in a dance-video presentation; and theatre arts-musical theater majors Lily Bryson and Hannah Clair performed “No One Is Alone” from the theater production of “Into the Woods.” 

The University Singers also were on stage to perform several selections, including a special piece they had just recorded for one of Hollywood’s finest. Cal State Fullerton President Mildred García introduced the presentation by praising Istad’s dedication to his work and to students’ academic excellence, sharing one of his recent accomplishments: opening doors for the University Singers to participate in an album of movie scores with five-time Academy Award-winner John Williams, whose iconic music is heard in the Indiana Jones movie series, “Schindler’s List,” “Star Wars” and many others. The University Singers recorded Williams’ “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Spielberg’s 1997 historical drama, “Amistad.”

“Steven Spielberg flew in from London to be there and upon hearing Dr. Istad’s students sing, he literally blew them a kiss,” said García. “Now I don’t know about you, but to get a kiss from Spielberg qualifies as not only a great underscoring of what our students can do under Dr. Istad’s wonderful leadership, but also qualifies as a high-impact practice, in my book.”

Istad, she added, “understands that arts, in all of its forms, connects us in ways that transcend gender, culture, age, race or academic discipline.”

Istad, in turn, admitted to being “very grateful and slightly overwhelmed” with so much praise, and shared his love for his college and his work.

“We are the dramatic, effervescent, sometimes annoying people on campus — and we are very, very proud of that in the College of the Arts,” said the alumnus, garnering applause. “But mostly we are proud of our students.

“Artists are the conscience of our world, and we need that now. We all strive to aspire, to encourage others to be more empathetic to one another and to the world around us,” Istad shared.

“We know the arts are proven to dramatically increase the brain and social function in children,” he added. “Did you know that among low-income students, students that participate in the arts are three times more likely to pursue and achieve a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree?

“The arts connect us. They connect our communities. They remind us to be truthful and to be human,” added the Outstanding Professor. “So today, we want to inspire you to connect to your own artistry. To your own sense of inspiration. And we ask you, what inspires you?”