The junior high graduation ceremony is an important time for eighth graders, as it is rite of passage into a more complicated and demanding world. As these soon-to-be-freshmen embark on this journey, they will learn that very few things will come easily to them anymore, and the importance of how perseverance is more prevalent now than ever.
There is no one better to embody such a momentous change than someone who has experienced it all and is currently a well-respected and successful culinary artist. Ryan Wilson, son of Laurie Wilson, Pinewood’s dean of studies, will be the graduation speaker for the junior high this year. Now an accomplished chef, Wilson started out cooking with his mother at the age of eight. By the time he was studying abroad in Australia during college, he had developed a passion for cooking with unique ingredients. From there, Wilson moved on to cook for Lawry’s Restaurants, a high end chain. At Lawry’s, Wilson learned the value of discipline and comradery, as he was constantly working with others to produce the highest quality food possible.
Until 2008, Wilson was a member and then chairman of the board of the Ecology Center, whose mission was to promote sustainable farming. His job was to assist the executive management and help create short and long term strategies to educate people on sustainable farming. In his words, he wanted to be able to use “the garden as a tool for education.”
As an alumnus, Wilson spent his pre-collegiate education at Pinewood and notes various underlying features of the Pinewood atmosphere. He appreciated the communal atmosphere at Pinewood that he was able to experience alongside 13 fellow Evergreens, and also valued the diversity in the student body and faculty. However, he also comments on the “perfect bubble that the feel of Pinewood can create, which walls us into our own little, perfect world.”
Wilson emphasizes the importance of experiencing the outside world, “which holds so many precious opportunities for, young people to expand their views and experience things new and previously unheard of.”
Wilson especially valued his time cooking in restaurants in various countries, where he was forced to constantly adjust the way he did things, the language he spoke, the type of food he made, and more. This flexibility in different situations is a key aspect that he claims has helped lead him to success since, in his words, “we live in a world that doesn’t wait for anyone to adjust to it. The world will simply pass us by if we are not willing to keep up.”
Wilson also stresses the importance of humility. During his time at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he was older than most of his peers, but learned that no matter what age, everyone’s opinions were valid, and each and every person in the room with him was capable of as much as he was. Humility in these situations was important to Wilson, because “everyone’s voice must be heard in order to devise a truly functional solution to any problem, and it’s important to realize that other people have perspectives and ideas, just like you.”
Finally, Wilson found that while success is gratifying, growth comes in failure. As a cook, board member, and executive chef, his success is not met with feedback. As a result, he highlights that failure is where feedback and learning come into play. So, a fear of failure is in fact detrimental to success in his eyes.
This is the kind of person that Wilson is – the type of person that represents success and learning, as well as one who values diversity, comradery, community, humility and failure. In his address to the junior high students, these are some of the themes that will surely ring true. The junior high is truly lucky to have such an amazing person as Ryan Wilson as their graduation speaker.