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Graduation Speaker: Eason Yang, Graduate Student

Submitted on June 25, 2022 - 5:18pm
Eason Yang
Eason Yang

Eason Yang received his Master of Design degree in June 2022. He was selected to be the graduate student speaker at the School’s 2022 Graduation Celebration. Below is the text of his speech.

Hello, faculty, parents, relatives, distinguished guests, undistinguished guests, special guests I invited to see me speak today, and the most attractive graduating class in the history of UW, congratulations!!

Today is a glorious day for all of us. Thank you to the School, faculty, and staff for organizing this beautiful event. You all look so beautiful, as always! You know who I’m talking about.

I am deeply honored to be invited to speak at this ceremony. I know Professor Jamie Walker had to go around and ask all 19 other graduate students, but they all said NO. Professor Walker, you are very welcome. I got your back.

For people wondering why there are so many Asians speaking today, have you been to the Chinatown yet? At UW, we just call it “the Ave.”

My name is Eason. Like Jason or Mason, there’s E-A-S-O-N. Not Ethan the T-H sound, or Easton — that is a shopping center in Columbus, Ohio.

Today we shall celebrate us, we shall celebrate harder because we had some hard years together. We are more resilient and tenacious than any other class, making us even more attractive! We shall give ourselves a louder round of applause!

We represent the lost years because of COVID. We never got to hang out.

Well, partially true. I was invited to play ping-pong with my design undergrad friends a few times UNTIL I killed the fun.

They realized I was Bruce Lee in ping-pong. All the Asian stereotypes are so true.

I have made other friends too. Like my mentor Professor Annabelle Gould. We spent at least one hour together each week in her office talking about my thesis work. That was the most consistent hangout I’ve had in past years. Our relationship developed over time; she even promised me once that we could get a proper ping-pong table. But not for me; it was for you, seniors, so you could practice!

I see so many beautiful families today! My family and I got stuck between two continents because of COVID, so they can’t be here today. I grew up in an academic family, meaning academic success is a big deal.

My parents will be so proud of me. I will be their favorite son again! FYI, I’m the only child.

I’m also a father, so I understand how important to set an example.

Last year, when I left home — Beijing, China — my 5-year-old daughter asked where I was going? I told her, a place called Seattle, I need to finish my second year of study. So she suddenly could relate to this experience and got excited. She said: my friends Becca, Steph and Erfan, they are in second grade too! True. Today, I’m graduating with them, all other second graders! And 240 preschoolers. (Seniors, you will see).

And last night, I had to Facetime my daughter and consult with her about which shoes to wear today. You know that’s a thing a 5-year-old girl would really enjoy. She told me I would look nicer in these black shoes.

But I completely forgot this thing. You can’t even see my legs. It’s like Zoom.

I have already set my mind on working my way back here, so my family will have this memory as you do. YES, I would love to be back again as a keynote speaker next year. Faculty, you got a deal.

Today, I’m especially happy to be here with you, just for myself, because I’m actually living a second chance life. I’m a cancer survivor, and, as of today, I am 43 months cancer-free. Some people call it “No Evidence of Disease” — but I call it Not Entirely Dead.

When I decided to apply to UW and return to design school two and half years ago, I was only 12 months out in my cancer survivorship.

12 months is nothing. The only mark that matters in cancer survivorship is the 5-year mark. Let me put this into your context, design students, 12 months in survivorship is basically the second week of your Design 166 class; at that point, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Even my friends were against the idea of graduate school. They said: can you just chill? Like forever?

But I wouldn’t go gentle into any good night. Just look at me here, how proud I’m standing.

I beat the shit out of cancer. I just finished a terminal degree. I will be teaching at UW this summer. And I have run about 5000 kilometers, training for marathons.

You know, running marathons is the most cliche thing cancer survivors all try to do, right? I just wanted to see what’s all the hype about.

I’m proud of those accomplishments. But what I am most proud of is a social initiative I started called Not Entirely helping 600,000 young adult cancer survivors in the US who are like myself, trying to move forward with their life again, after the ultimate fight. The cancer experience isn’t something I, or anyone for that matter, can really dust off. Since I have the privilege of being Not Entirely Dead, I’m advocating for this community and celebrating their grit, resilience, tenacity, strength.

You know what? We are just too cool for school. Please go to You will see! (That is a Call To Action.)

Importantly, I couldn’t have done anything without all the wonderful people I have met at the School of Art + Art History + Design. You are the people who brought me to this place and transformed my life with a new purpose. It has been my honor to work with you and get to know all of you. Although our time together was short, I hope it was memorable. I have my camera here, we will take lots of photos today and hang it on a shelf in good health and good time.

Thank you so much for having me today. I hope you had the time of your life. And I hope you break many legs at your new jobs.

God bless you! Thank you!

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