You heard it here first. Long before Alexander's ragtime (or hip-hop?) band opened the first and only law skule to disgrace greater metropolitan Fort Wayne, we the Cassandras of OTLSS warned of what would happen. And indeed Indiana Tech's law skule has failed to thrive. The ill-laid schemes of Indiana Tech's mice (any men there?) gaed agley. Grandiose plans that supposedly warranted the expense of a curated art collection remain unfulfilled. Indeed, Indiana Tech this past year had to drop tuition to zero in order to attract students, and still only fifteen swallowed the bait.
Unfortunately, Indiana Tech has survived long enough to shit out a graduating class. On Saturday, May 14, 2016, all of 21 lemmings collected a JD from Fort Wayne's center of juridical excellence. If, like me, you missed the ceremony (which was open to the public at no charge, although parking cost $5), be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy it on the Internet (http://commencement.indianatech.edu/watch/).
Now, of course the law skule could not have held its own graduation ceremony; after all, buying chocolate-chip cookies for 21 graduates and their guests might have driven the institution into insolvency. That could have spelled the end of the exciting and vital new field of law & hip-hop. To prevent that calamity, the university held one big ceremony for all departments, from Fashion Marketing & Management to Global Leadership (PhD).
As a journalist covering the law-school scam, I probably should have watched the whole damn thing. But I don't get paid for this stuff, and anyway that sort of torture might have justified calling in the union steward. So I took the liberty of skipping the first fifteen minutes or so, a procession featuring a brass band's unprepossessing rendition of Elgar. After some blowhard praised the trustees and the faculty, he introduced the keynote speaker, Jerry Mathers.
Certainly that name is familiar to me, but it may not be to a generation that has never encountered black-and-white television, so I'd better explain: as a child, Jerry Mathers played the lead role (that of Theodore "the Beaver" Cleaver) in a dull, white-bread 1950s sit-com called Leave It to Beaver. A typical episode centers on a tempest in a teapot arising from the Beaver's foibles and naïveté. Elder brother Wally lectures the Beaver ("You're in trouble now!"), but the improbably wise and forbearing father forgives all, and maybe Mom utters a word or two if she's not too busy with baking and sewing. It's a perfect little white suburban world where no voice is ever raised, no unkind word ever uttered. Women are marginalized, and racialized people are conspicuous by their absence. Tune in next week for another fun-filled episode of strait-laced McCarthy-era Americana.
Mathers was eminently qualified to address Indiana Tech's graduating class of 2016. Presumably through parental connections and geographic circumstance, he stumbled into acting for the boob tube at age 2. Whatever that early gig was, he parlayed it into Leave It to Beaver, which ran until Wally and the Beaver were simply too old to carry on the boyish farce. Since then, he has done … well, nothing, really. According to the introduction given at the ceremony, he worked at a bank for a time and also sold real estate. He seems to have had a few minor acting gigs over the past 40 years or so. That's it.
So why exactly was this actor manqué selected as keynote speaker? Well, the baby boomers who chose him must have looked with nostalgic admiration upon their childhood hero, even though most of the graduates probably hadn't heard of him. In addition, he must have been cheap. More prominent celebrities have exacted six-figure honoraria—too expensive for Indiana Tech, whose coffers have been depleted by a certain failed law school that shall go unnamed. And that is how Indiana Tech came to hire this flash in the pan.
But surely after 65 years in show business Mathers must be able to deliver one hell of a speech. Right? Wrong. It was the least inspired and least inspiring speech that I've heard since I last judged a moot. Mathers read from a script without even pausing at changes of paragraph. His few attempts at humor fell flat. He filled almost twenty painful minutes with platitudes: be yourself; do what you want to do; you're hot shit; you've succeeded against all odds; you're destined for great things. Even the audience tried to cut his speech short by applauding long before he was finished, but he was too daft to take the hint. Apparently he couldn't even wind the dreadful speech up ex tempore.
In Ward Cleaver's absence, Old Guy will have to conclude tonight's episode with a few moralizing words: If even a kid from Los Angeles whose parents get him into the starring role on a major television program can amount to nothing, don't think that your jive ass from Bluffton, Indiana, will get anywhere with a bullshit JD from Indiana mother-fucking Tech.