If graduating from Columbia was like winning an Oscar

By Brian Dukerschein

[Waits for applause to die down.]

Oh my god, this is unbelievable! Honestly, I never expected this. Oh, and I have nothing prepared! [Surreptitiously removes folded piece of paper from jacket pocket.]

Well, first I need to thank Dianne Erpenbach, former director of the Fashion/Retail Management Program, who was an indispensable resource when I transferred to Columbia. She was always accessible and did her best to minimize the loss of three years I spent at an unaccredited institution that shall remain nameless. It was she who first broached the idea that I combine my love of the fashion industry and the written word by declaring an interdisciplinary major, for which I’ll be forever grateful. Janet Talbot, associate director of the Advising Center, got the ball rolling and made the process a smooth one.

Betsy Edgerton, my adviser and director of the Magazine Writing & Editing Program, I cannot thank you enough for your immediate support and belief in my potential. Thank you for pushing me (despite my many protests) to enroll in a summer session of Reporting & Writing II taught by Jeff Lyon, which was perhaps the singular class of my college career. Jeff, you took a terrified, insecure journalism newbie and patiently helped me develop my skills as a reporter. I will never forget the lessons I learned in your class, nor the fact that it was you who suggested I apply to The Chronicle (again, despite my many protests).

To my Chronicle family, both current and those who have moved on to the real world: Matt Watson, thank you for taking me under your wing and answering all of my tedious questions. Amber Meade, I’ll always remember the cursing and laughter we shared at the copy desk, traditional Native American hula hooping included. Heidi Unkefer, from my very first day to my very last, you have been an eternal delight, a wonderful friend and a fantastic designer. Gabby Rosas and Jack Reese, you’ve survived 15 weeks of close, continuous contact with me, and therefore deserve medals, or at least a bottle of vodka. I hope I wasn’t too much of a nightmare. Heather Schröering, you are a gifted editor, and your commitment to excellence will take you far. It has been an honor working with you. Lindsey Woods, I’ve so enjoyed our friendship and discovering our similarities. Sophia Coleman, you, more than anyone, have been my companion and confidant during the last two years. I wish you nothing but success and happiness. Stephanie Goldberg, your humor and guidance were always appreciated. Chris Richert, you are a god among men and deserve a 200 percent raise and an office with a view.

To the many reporters who’ve put up with my exasperated sighs, eye-rolls and f-bombs: You’re all saints for not murdering me in my sleep. But rest assured, every edit I’ve ever made was to help your work shine (and protect us from libel). Remember to always confirm name spellings and stay away from clichéd ledes.

To the entire staff and faculty of the Journalism Department and the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building: Thank you for the memories. I’ve spent more time here in the last three semesters than in my own apartment. Thanks for waiving the security deposit.

Jennifer Halperin, you deserve sainthood. Keep sending those emails. Kristen Menke, thanks for sharing the Kool-Aid and letting me gripe about my copy woes.

Last and most of all, I would never have made it this far without my parents, Gordon and Beverly Dukerschein. Your unwavering support, unceasing love and preternatural patience are the only reasons I’m here today. Thank you for limiting my TV viewing to two hours per week, never letting me play video games, encouraging me to read, forcing me to pick rock in the fields, attending every parent-teacher conference and instilling in me an invaluable work ethic