Talented and driven — Mary Ruth is a successful young artist who has completed her first graphic novel, The Rodentiad

Mary Ruth graduated from Emory & Henry College in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She is continuing to work as an active artist, and sell paintings and drawings, while working towards a Masters of Fine Arts in Illustration at Memphis College of Art. Her present illustrative project is a graphic novel focused on the lives of artistic couple Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This project will be largely historical fiction, sprinkled with elements of magical realism, with a cast of lizards and frogs. She hopes this graphic narrative will be both an educational and enjoyable adventure for its readers. Her completed graphic novel, The Rodentiad, is being prepared to be submitted to publishers.

Who to better learn from than those who have experienced what you are experiencing now. Therefore, we used this opportunity to ask Mary Ruth a few questions that you as a Senior in high school or a Freshman in college may have been wondering about yourself. 

Q: What advice would you give to first-year Honors Scholars?
A: My advice is two fold. Firstly, do not take yourself too seriously. There is always room for you to grow. There is always room for the expansion of your horizon of ignorance. Even when you graduate there will be much that you will need to learn, because as William Butler Yeats said, “education is not filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire.” Part and parcel with not taking yourself too seriously is have a little fun. Soon enough you will be busier than you can imagine. Secondly, know that your professors are there for you. And as your friends are there for you, your professors are another kind of support system; however, give each person you meet on campus the respect she or he deserves.

Q: What was the most rewarding aspect of being in the Honors Program?
A: It is hard to decide what specific aspect of the Honors Program was the most rewarding. But I think in the end the ability to take upper level classes and therefore be exposed to more professors than perhaps the average student was probably the most beneficial to me. Through the Honors Program I managed to have professors that still rock my core foundations and beliefs and the manner in which I view the world to this day. Having the honor of taking classes from professors such as Jack Wells and Brynn Welch, neither of whom are professors within either of my fields of study, is an experience that I would not have given up for the world. The Honors Program and Emory & Henry College are lucky to have such professors at their fingertips. And so are the students.

Q: What was your research project? What made this a valuable experience?
A: My honors research project was the graphic novelization of Homer's classic work of literature, The Iliad. I entitled my work The Rodentiad. In the process of researching The Iliad and historical traditions of retelling The Iliad I read quite a few books including Marvel's illustrated Iliad. For years I had tried to write and illustrate a graphic novel, but through encouragement from honors staff and professors such as Charles Goolsby and Brynn Welch, The Rodentiad became a reality. This was a valuable experience for numerous reasons, but in part my research project was valuable for its mere novelty. At the time I never considered that I could not, for my English and Art combined honors, create a full length graphic novel. And so, it was only when I finished after two years of work with a graphic novel, that it was pointed out that no one at Emory & Henry had done some thing like what I had done, I felt pride. Pride in the idea that having opened the door, perhaps many more could essentially fulfill a dream of theirs in the form of an honors thesis. Because that is what I did. I completed my dream to write and illustrate and having done it once I am certain I can do it again!

Q: Just extra work? What was the Honors Program to you?
A: The Honors Program was a lot of time and work. However, it was much more than that. The Honors Program became something that I could use like a tool to better myself. If one only sees the Honors Program as more work, boxes to be checked, signatures to be gathered, then one cannot really get anything out of it as a program. As students at Emory & Henry College and especially as students in the Honors Program, we have been lucky to have been granted the opportunity to work with high caliber educators such as Dr. Melissa Taverner, Brynn Welch, Adam Wells, and so many more. Through the Honors Program I have not just completed work and garnered a BA with honors but I have made lasting friendships and connections that I know I will be excessively thankful for in coming days.

The banner photograph is provided by Jessica Myer ‘18.