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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Saved by the Bell! (ECW, part 1)

After four years of late night study sessions and rigorous coursework, Emory’s Class of 2010 was finally Saved by the Bell during the annual Class Day celebration. Traditionally held on the Thursday before Commencement, Class Day always provides a nice kickoff to the Emory Commencement Weekend festivities with a student-selected keynote speaker who delivers an inspiring message to the departing class. This year’s speaker was actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who is best known for his role as Zack Morris in the high school cult classic Saved by the Bell.

Gosselaar began his remarks by noting how much he had to “cram” for his speech, and marveling at how long the Class of 2010 has been here at Emory. After all, he said, in his experience college doesn’t last longer than two seasons.

Though some may have hoped for an appearance of Zack Morris himself, Gosselaar took on his own persona (i.e., he was back to his natural, non-bleached hairstyle). Weaving his speech with funny anecdotes and one-liners about his days as Zack Morris, Gosselaar recounted life on the set of the hit TV show and his struggles as a young actor in Hollywood.

Working on Saved By the Bell was one of the best jobs in the world, he said, but after the show ended in 1994, the real world was waiting with a lesson for the young star. After being typecast in the Zack Morris role, Gosselar found it difficult to find work and struggled for a number of years. However, after contemplating a career change during this rough patch, he eventually found work and continues to be active as an actor in various, high-quality roles.

When reflecting on what wisdom he could offer the Class of 2010, having never graduated college himself, Gosselar told the Class of 2010 that the most important thing in life is finding real love and being passionate about what you are doing. He noted that television is not an avenue for social or civic engagement, because it tends to ignore the larger problems that we are honor-bound to address. At the end of the day, being a husband and father are Gosselaar’s passion, and he hopes the Class of 2010 will lead lives filled with passion, success, and happiness.

All in all, this Class Day speaker seemed to be a real hit with the students, who gave him a standing ovation at the end. Though he did head toward disaster when he mentioned something about P*psi (you know, that other soft drink company), but the audience quickly reminded him what the official drink of Emory University is, a lesson he is not soon to forget.

And I could sense disappointment when there was no appearance by the legendary Zack Morris cell phone. Despite these minor incidents, President Jim Wagner awarded Gosselaar an “A” for his first ever university grade.

-- Shawn Scott 09T, coordinator, program development, Emory Annual Fund

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