A professor for 40 years and professor emeritus thereafter, nearly all of Val Cushing’s professional career was based in Alfred. Val’s connection with the university and community was enduring; he taught pottery and technical courses, fostering creativity in many of his students. Over the course of his teaching career, he received various honors, including an award from NCECA (the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts). Though much of his time was spent in Alfred, he also taught abroad in England, Norway, and Spain.
As an artist, Val sourced improvisation as his inspiration. He specialized in utilitarian vessels, forming pitchers, bowls, and casseroles. Their glazes, rich in earthen colors, were reminiscent of the landscapes of Alfred. In 1977, he was named Ceramic Artist of the Year by the American Ceramic Society. His pieces were featured in several institutions, among which were the Smithsonian, the Cooper-Hewitt, and the Everson Museum of Art.