Sam McConnell ’95
Growing up I always knew I wanted to do something in the arts, and I hoped I might have some positive impact, but I had no idea what that might look like, or how to get there. Luckily, Rowland Hall gave me the freedom to explore my imagination, the confidence to pursue my own path, and an appreciation for the community around me. Rowland Hall offered an abundance of creative opportunities, and I dove right in. I played saxophone in the band, I acted in plays and musicals, and I took as many ceramics, drawing, and painting classes as I could. I was also drawn to storytelling, whether it was memorizing Shakespeare with Tony Larimer or analyzing Toni Morrison with Leslie Helm Stone. These experiences provided a window into the world and gave me the confidence to develop and believe in my own perspective.
"Luckily, Rowland Hall gave me the freedom to explore my imagination, the confidence to pursue my own path, and an appreciation for the community around me. Rowland Hall offered an abundance of creative opportunities, and I dove right in."
I am enormously grateful to teachers who went beyond their specific subjects and taught us about humanity. In French class Doug Wortham taught us French, no doubt, but he did so using Renaissance paintings, Edith Piaf, and existentialist philosophy. George Henry taught all the history relevant to the AP exam, but gave equal weight to the history of the oppressed, whose stories are under represented. Being a young gay kid growing up in Utah, I felt particularly drawn to the stories of those who struggled on the margins of society: the civil rights movement, the labor movement, and the movement for LGBT equality.
My work today as a filmmaker and activist has been directly influenced by my years at Rowland Hall. A documentary I produced, The Out List, which explores LGBT identity in this country premiered on HBO in June. My next project, a feature length adaptation of the novel “In the City of Shy Hunters,” tells the stories of individuals living in the NYC downtown arts scene in the 1980s, decimated by the AIDS epidemic.
I continue to seek challenging and engaging stories to tell that will hopefully bring some enlightenment. I have Rowland Hall to thank for teaching me that there is a compelling story to be found in just about every subject.