For as long as I can remember, I have internalized a mix of passions. A lifelong love for creativity reflects from my own artwork. I also, however, have a compelling fascination in the world of business. I became aware of this and began channeling that interest when I started middle school and worked at Oregon Stationery in Prineville.
Later in 1983 when I enrolled at the University of Oregon, I wasn’t sure which career path I would venture down. Considering the advantage of having a couple of college-level drawing classes under my belt, I enrolled in the School of Arts. My dad, whom I deeply respected and admired, was a high school shop teacher, so I figured that I too might like to use my talent to become a teacher of art.
I was confidently following that education trail until a life-drawing class stopped me in my tracks. Grasping a charcoal stick while focusing on drawing as perfectly as I could, I sensed the professor, who had been canvassing the room, approach me from behind and peer over my shoulder. The longer he looked, the more nervous I got. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke: “You’re in the wrong school.” I was stunned.
“Let me explain,” he continued. “Your drawing is great; it looks exactly like the model. But you are trying to replicate what you see, not interpret it. Artists interpret. That’s what makes it art. You may be more suited for commercial or graphic art. Or advertising.” I explained that I didn’t know anything about those fields. He then used his own time to schedule an appointment for me to meet with an advisor in the UO School of Journalism and Communication.
At that meeting, the advisor explained the world of advertising, and I instantly saw that it blended my passions for creativity and business. I was hooked. That one detour led me into a 30-plus-year career in advertising, marketing, and brand work, where I have enjoyed partnering with hundreds of clients to improve their businesses.
The University of Oregon is a special community in which we all ask the “What if …” questions and support each other in becoming better individuals. Ours is a community where staff, coaches, students, researchers, alumni, faculty, and teachers (like the one in my story) are encouraged to step outside of our comfortable, traditional boundaries. And when we do, the impact reaches far and lasts long.
Tim Clevenger ’86