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Talley Summerlin ’88

Sustaining his Passions

By Donna Parker

Every press release Talley Summerlin, who received his bachelor’s degree in communication in 1988, has ever written, he learned how to do while at Trinity.

“In terms of being able to apply something practical to the real world, I immediately used that skill from the day I got my diploma until now,” says Talley, now a director at Green Canary Sustainability Consulting in Austin. 

“I’ve been really lucky to combine my public relations expertise with my real passion – the environment.  I’ve had the opportunity to tell meaningful stories and run meaningful programs for companies, such as Dell computers and Whole Foods Market, which embrace sustainability.”

Talley says there is a growing awareness about the need to take a closer look at the way we interact with each other and our planet.

“Our job at Green Canary is to help organizations interested in learning how to interact differently with the planet and with people.  In some cases that awareness has led to action, and in others, it has raised interest.  Either way, we all win.”

Talley is equally passionate about music.  After leaving Trinity, he and his brothers formed a rock band (BE) recording under their own label, Brother Yorick Records.  They performed together until 2002.

“We wanted to engage our passions, inspire people, make the world a better place and just have some fun,” he says laughingly.  “What I’m doing now in sustainability really isn’t any different.”

Talley’s third passion is his family.  Talley is married to Elizabeth Freese and together, they are parents to six-year-old Rose and four-year-old Vivian.   Talley says he and Elizabeth are “just coming out of the early childhood parenting cave” – the early years where a parent’s singular focus involves diapers, the potty, and feeding.

“In the time that any parent of young kids has to call their own, I go for a run or write songs – I even try to journal on a daily basis.”

Talley says Trinity was an interesting experience for him.  He had attended an Asheville, N.C., boarding school already, so he had four years away from home under his belt.  Away from the watchful eye of a prep school headmaster, he tackled academia…and fun.

“Trinity afforded me an opportunity to try new things and be supported in that.  I didn’t even declare my major until junior year.  Prior to that, I was sure I’d be a religion major, after slipping into a seniors-only class taught by Paula Cooey, department of religion, as a first year student.  That focused me strongly on religion.”

“But the biggest influence was from Bill Bristow, department of art.  His exuberance and enthusiasm for self-expression had a profound impact on me.  I went to him senior year to do an independent study on cartooning, so we started a comic called ‘Bone Boy’ that ran in the Trinitonian.  Once a week I would sit down with him and the two of us would draw together for a few hours.  We were both responsible for bringing something new to teach the other about cartooning, technique, or characterization.”

“Truly, the greatest thing about Trinity was putting each and every historical event in context so that you saw the whole picture.  You saw the Sistine Chapel not only as a painting, but also what it meant in the context of the times regarding politics and culture.”

Talley continues to weave all of life’s elements together.

“Now, I’m happy working green, being a dad, and continuing to write and publish my music.  I work hard to send my songs out into the universe and think there’s still more for me to do on the creative front.” 

You may e-mail Talley at tsummerlin@greencanary.net.