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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

‘This is always going to be home’

Amy E. Herman ’88 to give commencement address
Amy E. Herman will be the third alum in a row to give the commencement address. (Photo courtesy of Christine Butler)

Amy E. Herman ‘88, this year’s commencement speaker, first charted out the path for her life while in professor Robert Mattison’s art history class.

“If it were not for [Mattison’s] class, I would not be doing what I do today,” Herman said. “He opened my eyes … not only to the power of art but the power of bringing art to other people.” 

Herman has made a career out of bringing art to others and will be bringing the lessons she’s learned back to College Hill with her commencement address.

“The world needs changing,” Herman said. “We need [students’] power, their talent. We need them to step up and be brave and thoughtful and kind. My feeling is if you follow those, you’re not going to go wrong.”

Herman’s post-Lafayette journey began with her earning a law degree from George Washington University. After working in private practice for five years, she felt a tug back into the world of art. She began working as an attorney for an art museum before going back to school for an advanced degree in art history. 

She then became head of education at the Frick Collection, a New York City art museum. It was while at the Frick Collection that Herman developed her Art of Perception seminar series.

“It was just a perfect marriage of my love for art history and my experience as a lawyer, and I’ve been doing this for twenty-one years now,” Herman said. “When I left the Frick Collection, I took the program global and now I train governments, and I’ve trained FBI agents, nuns, NATO officers and Navy SEALs, all how to look at works of art to enhance their observational skills.” 

Her training sessions have a three-hour runtime and ask participants to reconsider the way that they look at what is in front of them. For example, Herman trained New York Police Department homicide detectives — who are tasked with seeing minute details as part of their jobs — to “use art as a vehicle to rethink how they do their jobs.”

“It’s refining two things: their ability to communicate effectively and … their sense of critical inquiry,” Herman explained. “The liberal arts education sharpened my mind and helped me to formulate the kinds of questions I needed to do the work that I needed to do, and that is what I’m doing with the Art of Perception. I’m teaching people around the world across disciplines how to ask better questions.” 

Herman has authored three books on the subject addressed in her seminars: “Visual Intelligence” in 2015, “Fixed” in 2021 and “smART” in 2022.

“Amy has a really interesting academic history and also professional history,” Chaplain Alex Hendrickson, who serves on the Presidential Commission for Commencements, said.  “In some ways, I think she’s the perfect liberal arts [embodiment].” 

Hendrickson experienced one of Herman’s sessions when she trained Lafayette’s student life office a few years ago.

“I really felt like I learned more about myself and I learned more about my colleagues,” Hendrickson said. “It was so unique using art to reflect in that way.” 

College President Nicole Hurd has been an advocate for the commencement address to be delivered by alumni.

“For commencement in particular, we’ve been trying to find people who not only bring a name and a splash but also bring a real connection to our students that day and make it a little bit more personal because they’ve sat in the same seat,” Hurd said.

Herman is now the third consecutive alum to deliver the commencement address, following Beth Mowins ’89 and Chip Bergh ’79.

“We want everyone in the audience to feel like they’re reflected on the stage and like they have common ground with the speaker,” Olivia Puzio ‘25, the Student Government president who serves as a member of the commission, explained.

For Herman, the opportunity to speak at commencement represents a full-circle moment in her life.

“Going home to this kind of honor is almost something I can’t wrap my head around,” Herman said. “[Students] may be leaving that day, but this is always going to be home — these people, these buildings, this education. It’s been thirty-five years for me and I’m so excited to make that climb back up the hill.” 

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About the Contributor
Madeline Marriott, Editor-in-Chief
Maddie (she/her) is a senior English major with a Government & Law minor. As the Editor-in-Chief, a Mentor Writing Associate, a Senior Student Contributor for Lafayette Communications, a Communications Intern for the Office of Sustainability, co-founder and Vice President of English Club, and a Senior Interviewer for Lafayette Admissions, no writing happens on campus without her knowing about it. Her Google Calendar would make your head spin. She is a die-hard Swiftie and Phillies fan, a collector of tote bags, a builder of a Hay Day empire, and an avid Goodreads and Letterboxd user. She smokes cigars and uses an old-timey typewriter and notepad in the newsroom.

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