Park Overall, a 1981 Tusculum College alumna, returned to campus on Thursday, Sept. 24, to discuss how college affected her life and career.
Peppering the mostly student audience with life lessons dowsed in humor, Overall encouraged them to make use of their time in college to learn about music, art, law and other humanities topics that will help them to develop in to well-rounded citizens who can participate in the conversation of community.
“Do you think you’re here to learn something? You’re not,” she told the students. “You’re here to become a well-rounded person.” She added that it was critical to be able to carry on a conversation in the intellectual world about something other than their phones.
“You’ve got to learn to think critically. The world is not black and white. The world is as gray as gray can get. You’ve got to be able to talk about many different things.”
Her advice ranged from topics such as what poetry to read, the importance of knowing a second language and thinking for oneself and making one’s own decisions about what to believe and support.
She told the group that they needed to rely on themselves for finding information and deciding how to act on it. “Knowledge is power and power is knowledge.”
She credited her time at Tusculum with exposing her to a world other than her own, which she said helped her when she left Greeneville for more diverse, metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles. She credited the diversity among the students and faculty at Tusculum College with helping to develop her awareness that there was more beyond her small community.
She also set forth to the students a challenge. “Every one of you has to go back to your own communities and ask, ‘Am I a part of the village?’ The future is on you.” She encouraged them to not be indifferent, but to also not be zealots. She challenged them to be active participants in their world. “Take this education and become a useful member of your community. Carry your share of responsibility.”
The lecture was part of the Tusculum College Humanities Series, sponsored by the Tusculum College English Department. Overall was introduced by Tusculum student Emily Waryck, a junior creative writing and literature major from New Concord, Ohio.
After graduation from Tusculum College, Overall left Greeneville for Hollywood, finding success in movies and television, including the award-winning movie “Biloxi Blues” and the long-running NBC sitcom, “Empty Nest.”
She is also well-known in the region as a dynamic environmental and women’s’ rights activist and former candidate for the U.S. Senate.
In addition to her time here as a student, her mother, Frances, a 1940 graduate of Tusculum, returned to her alma mater as an English professor for many years and her father also taught courses at the school. She is also a descendent of one of the original board of directors at Greeneville College, the forerunner to what is now Tusculum College.