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Gill receives SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching
5/27/09

John Gill, professor of ceramic art in the School of Art & Design at Alfred University, was recognized as a recipient of a State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching during the University’s annual Honors Convocation.

The School of Art & Design is part of the New York State College of Ceramics, a statutory unit of the State University of New York operated by Alfred University, making its faculty members eligible for the Chancellor’s Award.

Gill, who has taught in the acclaimed Division of Ceramic Arts since 1984, was nominated for the award by his colleagues and former students. Gill’s “innovative teaching methods and his unmatched, unbridled enthusiasm for the profession are an inspiration to all of us fortunate enough to be his colleagues,” said Dr. William C. LaCourse, associate provost for Statutory Affairs at Alfred University.

LaCourse noted Gill has been a leader of “our efforts to integrate the education of artists and engineers.” With Dr. William Carty, professor of ceramic engineering and a past recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Gill has taught a cross-disciplinary course during the academic year and during summer sessions.

“Approximately once every two weeks, John brings an art student to my office to discuss a problem or look at an example of a specific ‘defect’ on my shelves,” said Carty. “He uses my office as a resource.” Carty noted he and Gill have taken the students, both artists and engineers, on field trips to visit ceramic manufacturers, and that Gill frequently discusses research projects with engineering students, then takes the knowledge back to his art students, encouraging them to interact with the engineers to solve problems.

His insight as a teacher is widely praised by his former students.

“What I love about John is his ability to cut to the chase in someone’s work really quickly,” wrote Lisa Orr, a studio artist in Austin, TX, who earned her MFA degree in 1992. “After he knew me about two months, he walked in and said ‘This is all about the garden.’ It took me forever to figure that out myself… He was right on target and I am still looking at many aspects of gardens.’”

“I was just thinking about John this morning as I tried to get a student to think about the complex relationships of shapes and voids in a bowl she had just trimmed through,” wrote John Utgaard MFA ’99, who is now an assistant professor in the Department of Art, Murray (KY) State University. “When I was a student, John really helped me understand how the essential life of a pot can only be revealed with the hands; by holding it, feeling the balance, feeling out the thick and thin places in the walls, imagining the cross section.”

Stephanie Rozene BFA ’02, who is an instructor of art at Bowling Green (OH) State University, wrote Gill “has the ability to connect with every one of his students on a personal level, which is one of the most powerful things about John that I remember as his student and later as his studio assistant. He knew a little bit about what our passions were as individuals and used those to create metaphors between our art making and our lives. He truly cares about each of his students, which I have found as a teacher is one of the most meaningful ways to encourage my own students.”

Gill has taught a wide range of classes, from the team-taught Freshman Foundation course to sophomore wheel and hand-building classes to glaze calculations and raw materials. He has also advised a number of students in Alfred University’s Master of Fine Arts program in ceramic art, which has ranked at the top of U.S. News and World Report’s “Guide to Best Graduate Schools” each year that art programs have been ranked.

“The quality of his teaching is matched by the quality and recognition of his art,” wrote LaCourse. Gill’s art is “seen all over the world,” its distinctive qualities making it instantly recognizable as his work.

In spite of the time he puts into his teaching, Gill has remained active as an artist, maintaining “an impressive record of art presentations with 33 gallery shows in the past 10 years.”

He is in demand as a workshop teacher and presenter, giving 36 short courses and presentations in the past 10 years.

His work is found in numerous private collections and he has pieces in 14 permanent collections around the world, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the Los Angeles Museum and the Kansas City Art Institute.

Gill received his BFA degree in 1973 from the Kansas City Art Institute and his MFA from Alfred University in 1975. He taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Michigan, Colorado State University, Kent State University, and the University of Washington before returning to AU in 1984. He was also an instructor with the Archie Bray Foundation.