Alumni Magazine Summer 2014 - page 11-12

Summer 2014
Summer 2014
The college experience is much
more than a series of classes
taken over four years that lead to
a degree. It is a time of personal
transformation, when independence
is forged, possibilities open up and
identities are formed. In this heady
atmosphere, the power of shared
experiences form ties of lasting
friendships that often bind people
together throughout their lives.
In the early 1990s, friendships
coalesced among a group of first-year
students housed in “The Pit,” the
term of affection used by generations
of Clarkson students to refer to the
Hamlin-Powers residence houses.
For Erroll Eaton ’93, ’95, ’00
and Michael Ware ’94, that rapport
evolved into a 25-year friendship
that has withstood the test of
time, geography and personal and
professional changes.
“Today, we are more like
brothers,” says Ware.
The intensity of that connection
sparked another powerful — and
surprising — relationship built on
shared interests and creative passion.
One that has developed between
Eaton’s 13-year-old daughter, Elise,
an aspiring animator who speaks
“in pictures,” and Ware, a creative
professional whose name appears
in the credits of such DreamWorks
animated hits as “Over the Hedge,”
“Shrek Forever After,” and this year’s
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”
“A Big Guy Painting Little Figurines”
“Elise andMike are like two peas in a
pod,” says Eaton. “Mike is very creative,
very eccentric. The first time I met
him in 1989 I walked into his room—
we all had an open door policy back
then—and here was this big guy, a
6’1” rugby player, bent over his desk
painstakingly painting small, medieval
figurines. It just didn’t compute.”
“When my first child was born,
as soon as she was old enough to
handle a pencil, she started drawing
pictures and creating characters —
just like Mike! Elise had a hard time
expressing herself verbally when she
was younger. But she has always been
able to communicate through art.”
Ware and Eaton were first
drawn to each other, in part,
because of a shared identity and
background, African-American
and urban, a marked contrast to the
Clarkson student of 25 years ago.
“You have to remember what
Clarkson was like then,” says Eaton,
an Energy Solutions Performance
Consultant at Johnson Control in
Dallas. “It was a very homogeneous
population. Everyone seemed to
be from upstate New York towns.
We were from downstate. We had
grown up in the inner cities. We
had different influences, different
The bond of friendship that
developed also included fellow Pit
residents Richard “Rick” Williams
’93 (ME) and Anuwat (Nan)
Raviwongse ’93 (EM). What drew
each of them north was a strong
interest in engineering and the
promise of a great education.
“We knew what the statistics were
and that there wouldn’t be many
students from inner cities,” Eaton
says. “But we wanted to come to
The academic rigor of the
University lived up to its reputation.
But the social and cultural life
was out of step with their own
experiences. “Clarkson kids were
sitting around listening to pop
songs like “Brown-eyed Girl”
and “American Pie” and we were
interested in dance music,” says
Ware. “So, we set up dance parties
with DJs in Cheel Commons.”
Still, they found a community
that was embracing diversity. In
his freshman year, Eaton andWare
joined SPECTRUMM (Students
Proposing to Engineer Cultural
andThorough Relations Uniting
the Minority and the Majority). A
couple of years later, Eaton and
Ware, along withWilliams, founded
a local colony of Kappa Alpha Psi
International Fraternity, the first
African-American fraternity at
“A Real Role Model”
Eaton, who today serves on the
Coulter School of Engineering’s
Advisory Council, continued his
education at Clarkson, receiving
his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in
mechanical engineering before
launching a successful engineering
career in the automotive and
heating and cooling industries.
“Elise and Mike are like two peas in a pod,” says Eaton.
“We All Applauded”
Five months later, when “Mr.
Peabody and Sherman” opened in
March in movie theaters across the
country, the entire Eaton family —
Erroll and his wife, Joanne, their sons
Exavier and Elijah, and Elise — was at
their local theater on opening night,
wearing their DreamWorks t-shirts.
“When Mike’s name appeared in
the credits on the big screen, we all
applauded,” says Eaton.
Back in California, with his wife
and baby son, Ware is at work on
new movie projects, but he remains
connected to Elise, artist to artist.
“She has talent,” says Ware. “But
even more importantly, she has the
passion and drive to do the work.
That commitment will drive her to
succeed. I see myself as a person who
can point her in the right direction,
help her along the journey.”
“Because it really is about the
journey,” Ware adds philosophically.
“When I was younger, I thought
it was about a destination. But as
soon as you arrive you realize, wait a
minute, there is a lot more to learn.
So you keep going. The journey
doesn’t end.”
For more than two decades,
Erroll Eaton and Michael Ware have
shared each other’s journeys. A
connection that began in a college
residence hall between two young
men who found themselves in an
unfamiliar landscape has evolved into
a respectful and enduring friendship
that has withstood the test of time.
Over the years, Eaton shared
his daughter’s creative pursuits with
Ware, and the professional animator
took an interest in the nascent artist.
“Michael probably wouldn’t call
himself a mentor — he’s too modest
for that. But he has become a real role
model for Elise,” says Eaton.
Last October, Elise, armed
with a portfolio of her work, and
accompanied by her father, flew out to
California to visit Ware and his family
and to tour DreamWorks and see real
animators in action.
It was a trip of a lifetime.
Ware’s DreamWorks colleagues
graciously reached out to the talented
young artist. One animator in
particular, David Stodolny, a highly
accomplished senior character
animator agreed to give her a quick
10-minute tutorial. That turned into a
two-hour collaboration.
“I shared my work with David
and he started showing me some tips
on animating,” says Elise. “Then he
drew a character, just the shoulders
and head. It was bald and had a blank
facial expression. The drawing looked
great but the character needed hair.
So I ask David if I could draw hair on
it. He said it was ok!”
“Then he drew the same
character on another page. This time
it had a surprised facial expression
and was looking at something. I drew
the hair again. David said we should
put more drawings of the character
in between the two pages so the
animation looks smoother. When he
was done, he gave me the papers of
the character animation!”
Ware, an E&Mmajor, followed
a more circuitous route, pursuing an
interest in animation; he eventually
enrolled in a master’s program
in computer art at the School of
Visual Arts in 2000. His new career
eventually led him to Pasadena,
California, and a position at
DreamWorks where he has worked as
a character technical director on nine
movies over the last 10 years.
“Animated films are very
complex to put together with
multiple people engaged in each
step along the way,” says Ware. “As a
character technical director, I work
in 3-D to create a model that turns
a two-dimensional statue into an
articulated character that can bend
an elbow, blink an eye and smile.
Then someone else builds their faces
and someone else, their clothing. It is
very much a collaboration.”
AsWare was developing the
articulated characters in hit films like
“Monsters vs Aliens,” half way across
the country, Elise Eaton was spending
hours and hours sharpening her artistic
skills by creating
and eventually
developing and
animating her own
sets of characters.
And she was
drawing. Always
drawing. She
was even earning
money, charging kids a quarter a picture.
“I’ve been drawing on paper
for as long as I can remember,” says
Elise. “I started very early because
whenever I was crying my mom
would get a piece of paper and
crayons and tell me to draw what the
problem was. So I drew a lot! I drew
ice cream, my family, Elmo and birds.
I loved drawing birds.”
Erroll Eaton ’93, ’95, ’00
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