With events that included a blockbuster film premiere and the annual Alumni Awards, IWU celebrated Homecoming 2011 in style.
It was a year to honor those who work behind the scenes and take the stage at Illinois
Wesleyan’s 2011 Homecoming, titled “Lights, Camera, Action,” held Oct. 21-23.
Among the weekend’s highlights, the hit DreamWorks Animation movie Puss in Boots had its world premiere at the Hansen Student Center, thanks to alumnus Bill Damaschke
'85, chief creative officer of the animation company responsible for the enormously
successful Shrek and Kung Fu Panda films.
Damaschke hosted a screening, and was later awarded the 2011 Distinguished Alumni
Award at the annual Homecoming Luncheon held in the Shirk Athletic Center.
Other alumni were presented Young Alumnus and Loyalty awards at the luncheon. Below
are excerpts of the winners’ acceptance remarks, as well as from “Back to College”
classes taught by two of the recipients.
Bill Damaschke ’85, Distinguished Alumni Award
What he does: As chief creative officer for DreamWorks Animation, Bill is responsible for leading
the creative and artistic direction of the animation studios. He has been involved
in hits such as Academy Award-winning Shrek, Academy Award-nominated How to Train Your Dragon and the recently released Puss in Boots, which had its world premiere at a Homecoming screening hosted by Bill. He also oversees
all live theatrical productions, including the Tony Award-winning Shrek: The Musical.
What’s next: Among many projects, Bill is working on a “hybrid film” due out in 2014 called Me and My Shadow. The movie will combine traditional animation and computer-generated filming techniques.
“The rule of the shadow world is we’re casters, they’re shadows, they follow. But
what if one day your shadow took over and started dragging you around because they
just couldn’t take it anymore?”
IWU’s influence on his career: “Every day I look back at what I learned here — whether it was about creativity or
taking risks — those kind of things serve me every single day and I’m really happy
and proud that I have the foundation I got here at Illinois Wesleyan.”
On the power of yes: “I always say you must come from a place of ‘yes.’ Yes is the most important word
to use. It’s so easy to come up with all the reasons why something might not work,
especially in a creative environment. … I don’t think you can really innovate and
be creative and actually accomplish anything unless you really think from a place
of yes. Yes is about opportunities — it’s the ability to take risks. It’s about the
environment I had here at school.”
On curiosity and the liberal arts: “I think curiosity about other things in the world is reallyimportant. I think that
if you’re intellectually curious and you go to a liberal arts college and you take
classes outside the things you think you want to do, those things will always come
back to serve you later on. If you think you know what you want and what you’re going
to do, you are wrong. You actually don’t know.”
Eric Snowden ’00, Robert M. Montgomery Outstanding Young Alumni Award
What he does: As the vice president of direct-to-fan creative and technology at Atlantic Records,
Eric oversees all design, development and project management for the digital department.
He also teaches workshops and classes in photography, digital imaging and Web design
for such institutions as the Parsons School of Design and Anderson Ranch Arts Center
On switching from chemistry to art: “I was a chemistry major for about the first semester I was here [at Illinois Wesleyan]
and realized it wasn’t quite the right fit for me. Nothing against science or chemistry,
but I realized pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be very good at something that
I wasn’t in love with.”
Maintaining a Wesleyan connection: “I really realized how Wesleyan has been a common thread throughout all of my jobs.
I’ve worked with Wesleyan graduates in three different states, in three different
jobs. It seems like everywhere I go, I’m leaving from one connection to the next.
It’s been really a beautiful thing.”
How to keep a fresh perspective: “For creative people and for people who are designing or coming up with new ideas,
it’s extremely important to have something else other than work. To make sure that
you’re being creative in other ways, that you’re getting tactile with your hands,
that you’re actually making things. I think it’s easy to get in the same repetition,
and if you don’t break out of that, everything you do gets stale.”
Deon Hornsby ’97, Loyalty Award
What he does: Deon is a regional underwriting manager for the Private Client Group of Chartis Insurance
in Schaumburg, Ill.
Achievements at Illinois Wesleyan: He was an executive board member of the Black Student Union for two years, as well
as a three-year letter winner in football, and a member of the undefeated 1996 Titan
On the tradition of alumni giving back: “The thought of giving back was actually planted when I was a freshman. There were
so many alums that came back. … People who won Loyalty and Distinguished Alumni awards
in the past, that instilled in me that your job isn’t just to graduate, your job is
to reach back and help the next generation through it.”
How he gives back: For 10 years, Deon has served as an executive board member of the IWU Alumni Association,
where he volunteered for numerous committees. He was co-chair of the Minority Alumni
Network for six years. He continues to be a role model and mentor to Titan football
players and students on campus, as well as participating regularly at the minority
mentoring session for students at Homecoming and the annual ALANA orientation for
first-year students and their parents.
To view a slideshow of images from Homecoming 2011, click here.
To visit the IWU Alumni Association web page, click here.