COURAGE FOR THE DEED;
GRACE FOR THE DOING

Distinguished Alumni Award Presented to Robbin Armstrong '81 and Paolo Malabuyo '91 April 29, 2016

Robbin Armstrong:

From the age of four, Robbin Armstrong knew that drawing was his “calling in life.” He thought he was pretty good at it. “The worst thing an artist can be is convinced of his own greatness,” Mr. Armstrong says. Shipley and Art Department Head Chris Wagner fixed that. To be successful, he learned, “You have to get past a bodyguard known as Abject Failure.”
 
 Mr. Armstrong has pushed past that bodyguard. For over 20 years, his syndicated comic strip, “Jump Start,” has run in newspapers all over the country. His cartoons have been published in The New Yorker. He has written children’s books. He has been featured on television—Good Morning America, MSNBC, CNN, B.E.T., and Good Day Philadelphia—as well as in print—Time, People, Ebony, and Black Enterprise.

 Mr. Armstrong has been successful — and prosperous — but he makes a distinction between the two. “Success is older and wiser,” he has written. “Success has wrinkles around eyes that weep for the struggles of others.… Success wants company. Prosperity is alone in a crowded room.” Mr. Armstrong’s most important mission is being a motivational speaker — to over 300 schools and youth organizations, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and many others. He uses his personal experience to encourage others in their struggles. He is never alone in a crowded room.

 In 2012 Holy Family University gave Mr. Armstrong an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Today, Shipley presents him with the Distinguished Alumni Award, making him one of two first men ever to be recognized in this way.

Acceptance Speech:

Thank you Steve Piltch, the Board of Trustees, the Alumni Council, and the Shipley community in general, for this honor. This includes my gratitude for all of your support for my book. I just sold one of my classmates a copy in the lobby and I have $25.00 in my pocket.

 It's been an incredible year. It would be a fair assumption to think this is the biggest, most mind-boggling year of my life. Truth is, that best describes 1974, the year I became a 7th grader at Shipley. I loved it so much, I did 7th grade twice!

 Much ado is also being made of my being one of the first men to be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award. It's humbling, and I must say in regard to that...I wouldn't be receiving this recognition without the women of Shipley. In fact, without the intervention of Kay Graff in 1975, I'd still be in Lower School TODAY. The list of Shipley women, and honorary Shipley women like Crystal Armstrong, who have made my success possible, is too long to rattle off here. Steve told me to be brief. But truly, this is the result of Chris Wagner opening my creative mind, Mrs. Riley for honing and elevating my abilities as a writer, Barbara Clothier for stepping into the void after the death of my mother, Trustee Dorothy Armstrong, and the life-long support of my classmates in the class of 1981!

 Any success I have ever experienced reminds me how fortunate and blessed I've been to be a boy from this girls' school! Thanks again everybody. I really love you!


Paolo Malabuyo:

Paolo Malabuyo describes himself as a veteran practitioner of branded user experience design and creative management. In plain English, combining his talent as an artist, with deep knowledge of the tech world, he makes the relationship between user and technology easy and exciting.

 Mr. Malabuyo was born in the Philippines and took a roundabout journey through Asia to land in Shipley’s art room under the direction of Chris Wagner and Steve Baris. He says his ambition was “somehow to leave my mark on history.” By now, he has left his mark on Microsoft, Zynga, and Mercedes Benz, among others. At Microsoft, he was User Experience Manager for the Xbox 360 game console when it was first launched, and he designed games including “Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge.” He says a highlight of his gaming career was beating the designer of Tetris in a puzzle video game.
 
 More recently, Mr. Malabuyo was Vice President of Advanced User Experience Design at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, where he led the team working on connected automobiles. He is currently Director of Design at Netflix. Mr. Malabuyo holds numerous patents and is an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Silicon Valley. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences all over the world.

 Paolo Malabuyo has certainly fulfilled his dream of making a mark on history — especially in the tech world. It is for this that Shipley honors him today with the Distinguished Alumni Award, making him one of two first men ever to be recognized in this way.

Acceptance Speech:

Good morning! It’s surreal to be here for my 25-year high school reunion, with family in the student body, to be honored as one of the first two men receiving the Distinguished Alumni award.

 I am delighted to be here with Robb Armstrong. I first met Robb when he visited Shipley when I was a student, and I have greatly admired him since. He and I both pursued non-traditional creative careers and, despite the odds, have received some success in a society that is still trying to find a measure of equality in how it treats racial, religious, cultural, and gender minorities. I don’t take this recognition lightly, so thank you.

 As a recent Filipino immigrant, I had a difficult time at Shipley’s Upper School. My imperfect English, socioeconomic status, lack of athleticism, and insecurities made me feel completely out of place. I remember trying out for cross country; on the first day I fell behind the group and promptly got lost; the coach had to drive around looking for me all over Bryn Mawr. The wrestling team recruited me for the 103 lb. weight class which many other schools simply forfeited due to not having someone small enough.

 Despite the fact that Shipley gave me great financial support and a great educational environment, I still became an unusually angry teenager and railed against the “smart Asian immigrant” stereotype by not doing as well as I could in school. By senior year I realized how counterproductive my attitude was but had trouble doing much about it, and I continued to spend countless hours drawing, reading, and playing video games.

 A small group of dedicated friends and great teachers, particularly the “tough love” art program with Ms. Wagner and Mr. Baris, saved me from myself while Ms. McEvoy, my college guidance counselor, helped me find and get into a great university that fit me well.

 College was my opportunity to start fresh. There I pursued a full academic, creative, work, and social life in the pursuit of discovering who I could become. My passion for art became the seed for a career whose potential I am still discovering.

 Today I’m far from done, and it still pains me when I screw up, but I continue to work on becoming a better designer, leader, manager, teacher, friend, family member, and husband. I am, and will continue to be, a work-in-progress. I want to leave you with three ideas that have helped me over the years.
 
 First, who you are and how you feel about yourself can and will, inexorably, change. Most people don’t notice nor care about your faults and insecurities. Don’t get stuck in an outdated idea of who you may have been as it prevents you from becoming who you could be. Forgive, forget, and move on.

 Second, you can learn anything. The human brain is the most amazing learning machine there is, and we all have one whether you choose to use it or not. Unless you’re a true prodigy, all the rest of us need is time and practice to become proficient at anything.

 Third, be grateful. Acknowledge your many advantages. Savor those that come your way either through luck or hard work, and honor what others have done for you to get you where you are, wherever that may be.

 Should you choose to do these things and develop this attitude, you will grow to become a better version of yourself. It may not be easy but the effort is worth it.

 Thanks to The Shipley School for giving me a challenging environment with fantastic counselors, administrators, and teachers who helped prepare me for my personal & professional journey. I’m a better man for it. It’s a privilege to be here with you all today. Thank you.
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List of 21 news stories.

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.