Joe Ferrell just can't help himself.
He can't let you sit in the audience at some stuffy university event while he drones on and on about some wonderful person's wonderful background.
"I've sat through too many of these things and been bored to death; Ferrell said recently. "It's like reading the obituaries."
That's why, as the secretary of the faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, Ferrell tries to lighten the mood at commencement, when honorary degrees are bestowed upon notable folks with long resumes, and at University Day, when distinguished alumni awards are given to, um, notable folks with long resumes.
He does so by prefacing the rote biographies of these overachievers with short, pithy, well-thought-out comments that warm up the crowd.
Take his recent University Day introduction of Janie McLawhorn Fouke, a distinguished alumni award winner who has served on an array of advisory boards and professional organizations and is among the world's leaders in biomedical engineering.
"Don't ask Janie Fouke about a glass ceiling for women in engineering," Ferrell intoned in introducing her. "She's standing on the shards."