References to a broken scooter and a bag of shattered light bulbs were key parts of the lecture that Brian Hogan gave to a mix of students and faculty in Gerrard Hall on Wednesday.
The chemistry professor was presented with the 2015 Carolina Chiron Award, which recognizes educators for their character and service to undergraduates. The winner gets to speak on any topic as if it is his or her last lecture.
Kristyn Wilson, chairwoman of Speakers at Carolina, helped organize this year’s lecture. She said the award is the only student-selected and student-led speaker event on campus. She said Hogan was chosen in part because of his position as academic director of the Scholars’ Latino Initiative.
“It’s really clear that he not only has a lot of success in the classroom, but he has been a role model to students outside of his class,” she said.
Hogan said many people might see him as successful, but his speech, titled “Broken Scooters and Shattered Light Bulbs,” discussed the failures that shaped him.
After his living through parent’s divorce and getting kicked out of Catholic school as a teen, Hogan said he became angry, resentful and fearful.
As a young adult, Hogan diagnosed himself with "imposter syndrome." He said he was unable to internalize his own accomplishments, and for a long time, he believed he was a fraud.
“I became a master of facade,” he said. “I never really knew who I was, so I could put on whatever face I needed to fit in.”
He went to graduate school at the University of Arizona but dropped out after feeling like an imposter.
“There’s this idea among students that you can go from A to B by following this prescribed path,” he said. “I’m living proof that you can go from there to here by making every wrong choice."
Hogan eventually went to graduate school at UNC and married his wife, biology professor Kelly Hogan, but he still struggled with his identity and was diagnosed with clinical depression. He said he was in a sea of melancholy, hitting rock bottom when he threw his 2-year-old son’s scooter across the backyard for no reason.
“I didn’t feel like anything,” he said. “I felt like a bag of broken light bulbs.”
Since then, Hogan said he uses new tools to navigate life. He offered students several pieces of advice.
“Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides,” he said.
He encouraged students to believe in themselves and live vicariously. He said it was important for students to be true to themselves. Hogan has "to thy own self be true" tattooed on his leg in Latin.
“If you spend one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, all you do is poop on today,” he said.
Katie Weinel, a second-year medical school student, came to hear Hogan speak after taking his biochemistry class.
“I think I learned that even successful people go through tough times in their life,” she said. "And it’s important to have the tenacity to get through those times and get help when you need it.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.