Dear Alfred University students, staff, and faculty,
We justly can be proud of the profound impact our alumni have on their fields—whether it is art, engineering, business, law, education, health care, non-profit, or a whole host of others.
Last week, brought attention to two of our graduates who have left their mark on the field of art.
The first is Betty Woodman ‘50, who died last week at the age of 87. Betty was drawn to Alfred as the mecca for ceramic art and attended the School for American Craftsmen while it was located at Alfred University and part of our College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. As detailed in a prominent obituary in Sunday’s New York Times, Betty was a creative force in her field. She also had a great deal of influence on Alfred University faculty and alumni. Wayne Higby, who has spent the past 45 years at Alfred University, as a distinguished professor in our highly regarded ceramic art program in the School of Art and Design and now as the Wayne Higby Director and Chief Curator of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, has this to say about Betty:
“Betty was my teacher and a close friend for over 50 years. She helped launch my teaching career at the University of Nebraska and consistently provided valuable insights on art and ceramic art, in particular. She taught at our University in 1975 and through that appointment also meaningfully impacted, as a mentor and a friend, Andrea and John Gill, Scott Chamberlin, and Graham Marks, all four of whom were graduate students at the time and became significant ceramic artists and teachers in their own right.”
The friendships are chronicled in the catalog published for Betty’s 2006 retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She was the first living female artist to have a retrospective at the Met.
Earlier in the week, I received a letter from Jerry Ackerman, MFA ’52. Jerry, 98, is still working in Los Angeles, where he and his wife Evelyn established their design studio, Jenev, shortly after Jerry received his Alfred degree. Included in the letter was a clip from the Wall Street Journalin early December, suggesting a pair of slip-cast bird candleholders as a holiday gift. Jerry cast the candleholders using molds he designed in 1953.
Designs by Jenev are included in a current exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985.” The exhibition is expected to travel to Mexico City after it closes in Los Angeles on April 1.
Jerry and Evelyn were among the leaders of the California mid-century modernism movement and there is renewed interest in their work as Design Within Reach, a firm that works with a limited number of designers to make their iconic work available to the public, released the Jenev Collection on November 1, 2017. There is a wonderful blog entry about Jerry and Evelyn on the Design Within Reach web site.
Jerry conveyed in his letter, “I believe [the designs] have really stood the test of time. I credit Alfred and its wonderful ceramics program with equipping me with all the skills I needed to start my own ceramics business when we moved to Los Angeles.” That is one of the truths I have come to appreciate about Alfred University and the artists who learn,teach, and/or practice their craft here: The work endures, and so do the friendships.