NDSU commencement speaker urges bold choices
Published December 16, 2013
For NDSU senior Anna C. Pieri, life revolves around bold choices. That thought-provoking message will be the heart of her talk as class representative at winter commencement ceremonies scheduled for Friday, Dec. 20, at 4 p.m. at the Bison Sports Arena.
Pieri, who will receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in theatre arts, said the theme of her talk is based on her life experiences.
“Without bold choices, we remain stagnant,” said Pieri, noting she’ll weave that thread as she uses the structure of a theatric performance as the framework of her talk. “Forward momentum is needed to move a play forward, and that’s also required to move our lives ahead.”
Highly active in NDSU Theatre, Pieri was the senior member of the student-run audience building committee. She was elected company deputy for several productions and appeared in numerous plays.
But, her path to her dreams took a few detours.
In 2009, Pieri struggled with her classes and decided to drop out of school. She worked for a time with a theatre company in Ohio and then returned to the Red River Valley to work in retail and coach a high school debate team. She became a store manager in Grand Forks, N.D., and was doing well.
Yet, something was missing.
“I had a super successful career. I had a good salary and everything I thought I wanted. But, I was miserable,” Pieri said. “What I really wanted was to pursue my art.”
It was time for a bold choice. In fall 2012, she returned to NDSU and everything clicked. She quickly emerged as a respected leader in the theatre department. “Coming back as an older student, I had a sense of focus and a drive that was lacking earlier,” Pieri explained. “Often, when things are hardest, what we need to do is make a choice and stick to it. Good or bad, something will come of it and we can learn from the experience.”
Affectionately called “Mama Bear” by fellow theatre students, Pieri always takes the time to listen to the problems of others. Her leadership skills and acting ability found new levels after her return to campus. She was wardrobe master for “9 to 5, The Musical” and student representative for the Little Country Theatre Centennial Celebration Committee.
“Anna is talented and smart,” Hardy Koenig, assistant professor of theatre and artistic director, wrote in a letter of nomination for student commencement speaker. “She pushed herself to go as far as she could and to excel in everything that she did. Anna became a leader in the department, instantly liked, and instantly looked up to.”
Pieri performed such diverse roles as an Indian goddess, Clytemnestra from Greek mythology and a Chekhovian diva. Her favorite was Catherine the Great, ruler of Russia in the 1700s. “She had such a powerful persona,” said Pieri. “I was only on stage as Catherine for about 45 seconds, but she had such a tremendous stature. And she had an awesome dress.”
After commencement, she’ll take her shot at a professional acting career. During January, she will audition for the Irene Ryan Scholarship for Acting at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Lincoln, Neb. In February, she plans to participate in the United Professional Theatre Auditions in Memphis, Tenn.
With a bright future ahead, Pieri said her bold choice to return to NDSU made it possible. “It has been a great experience,” she said. “It shaped me into the person I am, and I am so grateful for every moment at NDSU.”
Pieri is the daughter of Bob and Pat Pieri of Fargo. Her father is a professor of mechanical engineering at NDSU.