Red Burns, founder of Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, passed away in her Manhattan home last Friday, at the age of 88. True to her legacy in touching thousands of lives, the obituary on ITP's website includes a section for sharing stories about the celebrated educator.
I never had the pleasure of meeting the aptly-nicknamed "Godmother of Silicon Alley"—my secondhand experience of ITP comes mostly from meeting many students, faculty and alumni over the years—but the incredible response to news of her passing (through social media tools that ITPers may well have helped to develop, no less) paints a portrait of a brilliant pioneer in the fields of media, technology, education and where they intersect. John Maeda shared the video below and Burns' moving presentation [PDF] to incoming ITP students over the weekend; the NYTimes published a nice obit yesterday, as did Rhizome.
The fact is, ITP has long transcended its acronymous origin and has come into its own as a sui generis setting for exploring media and its potential to change the way we see and engage with the world, turning technology into art and vice versa. Burns shaped a current generation of designers, technologists, makers and entrepreneurs, and these individuals—past, present and future friends, colleagues, mentors and pupils—will continue to honor her spirit through their work.
From the presentation [PDF]:
You are here, and I welcome you.
Look around you. You come from parts of the world that many of you have never visited.
As you come together, depend on each other, you will find yourself wearing the ill-fitting clothes of someone else's world and dine on what is the strange food of someone elses thought.
If you can resist the temptation to run back to the shelter of your own comfort zone—if you permit yourself the intellectual curiosity to explore your differences just as you would explore a new city, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Collaboration will jar you—provoke and confront you with different ways of looking at the world—allow this to happen, embrace it...
Each day is magic for me.
I hope it will be for you.