We asked Harrison to do this alumni spotlight to spread the word about his upcoming book!
I’ve decided to provide my Belhaven alumni update in the form of an interview, because I am both difficult and prone to sloth, and this interview format precludes the need for thoughtful paragraph transition, which can be so tiresome to write.
BELHAVEN UNIVERSITY: What do you do at SCAD?
HARRISON SCOTT KEY: What is a “SCAD?”
BU: It’s where you work, according to your website.
HSK: Oh, yes! The Savannah College of Art and Design. Wait, I have a website?
BU: Yes. www.HarrisonScottKey.com
HSK: That’s convenient. Easy to remember.
BU: Didn’t you go by “Scott” when you attended Belhaven?
HSK: I did. I had other names, but Scott was one of them.
BU: Why are you Harrison now?
HSK: Actually, I’m writing the story about why I started using my first name and also the truth about my relation to Francis Scott Key. I’m finally ready to talk about it.
BU: Where can we read this story?
HSK: The Oxford American. Summer 2015.
BU: You can’t tell us now?
HSK: Nope. You have to buy the magazine, because my editors are poor.
BU: So, SCAD.
HSK: I’ve been at SCAD for going on nine years. I came here to be a speechwriter for the president of the university, which was great fun, because I’ve always enjoyed telling other people what to say, just to see if they would say it. My Ph.D. is in playwriting, and speechwriting is no different: It’s just inventing words and stage directions for a character who happens to be real. The only real difference is that the character can fire you, which has a way of improving your focus. A few years ago, I was asked to chair the liberal arts department, where SCAD houses the core curriculum–philosophy, English, anthropology, political science, that sort of thing. I teach courses in humor, memoir, story, composition, all kinds of fun stuff. I don’t chair anymore. I just teach and write, and participate in hurtful interviews, such as this one.
BU: Art students have to take English and philosophy?
HSK: Yes. Art students are insane, generally, and like to come to SCAD to punish themselves with courses on Shakespeare and Existentialism, which help make them better thinkers and slightly less insane. SCAD shares that in common with Belhaven, this belief that the liberal arts are what make us human, or at least what helps us to understand our humanness. Artists and designers need that, I think. Like every other human.
BU: So, you have a book coming out.
HSK: That was supposed to be a secret.
BU: It’s on Amazon already.
HSK: I’d prefer to not talk about it now. It’s supposed to be a secret.
BU: It’s call The World’s Largest Man.
HSK: Spoiler alert. It’s about my family.
BU: Tell us about your family.
HSK: I have one.
HSK: My wife, Lauren, attended Belhaven, too. She danced here. I danced here, as well, but people soon asked me to stop because it was upsetting to many people. She was a ballerina, which is not what you’re supposed to call them. You’re supposed to call them “dancers,” I think, or something else. I can’t remember. Cantaloupes, maybe. She started teaching ballet not long afterBelhaven and has been doing it ever since. She’s on the faculty at The Habersham School, here in Savannah, where our children are enrolled. It’s great that she’s there, that they have an actual ballet instructor on staff. Very unusual. It’s possible they hired her for other reasons, such as believing she was a cantaloupe. But it’s great. She’s a great teacher, so much better at teaching ballet than I am at teaching writing. She has a gift. Also, she has me, and I am a gift, as well, according to my mother.
BU: Tell us about your kids.
HSK: We have three girls, ages 8, 6, and 4. Simmons, Eppie, and Ferris. Simmons is my reader. Eppie is my athlete. Ferris is the ballerina. All three are good at crying for no reason and have a rare disorder where they develop amnesia in the night and forget that attending school requires getting dressed and actually leaving the house, which they seem to find upsetting.
BU: What do you miss most about Belhaven?
HSK: Probably the card catalog. Do they still have those? I miss them. I miss the smell. I’m looking forward to coming back this fall. I hope to do a reading, after which I would like to smell the card catalog, if that’s possible.
Photography by Chia Chong
Styling by Libby Summers