Not literally, but as an undergraduate degree-earning ‘child,’ I have lost my ‘parenting’ glass department due to university cuts in the Spring of 2013. In the Spring of 2015, I will also lose the Art+Design program altogether due to even more university cuts.
Aside from the oddity of having your origins simply disappear, there is empathy and sorrow for my faculty from a professional angle…losing a job that they’ve done for well over twenty years and have done with tremendous impact upon a great many students. It’s hard to identify all the elements that trouble with me with this…mourning certainly has a process. But I had an opportunity to begin combing through all the details when Robyn Davis, the AU Art+Design Administrative Assistant, set forth a call to arms to Anderson alumni…
The way faculty had been notified of what would be cut and what would stay had been handled so poorly along the way. Meetings would take place between administration and the remaining faculty; what programs/positions were promised to stick around at certain points in 2014 were eventually taken off the table at meetings later on. If certain majors and programs weren’t talked about being cut, they were talked about merging into other entities within the University…ultimately being cut in meetings eventually following those meetings; meetings that gave these faculty hope in continued employment and students a hope in continuing their education – perhaps even the ability to finish their degree.
Glass: gone. Ceramics: gone. Sculpture: gone. Foundations: gone. Photography: gone. Printmaking: on the chopping block. Painting: on the chopping block. What little was left of the department - the Graphic Design major - was going to be retained and moved with the Communications Department. However neither of the Graphic Design faculty will be retained along with it. Professor Brad McKinney was let go in 2013 (along with my own personal mentor and hero, Professor Arlon Bayliss). Professor Kevin Rudynski, the individual for developing that very successful Design program and maintaining it for 24 years, was told that he would lose his position in that merge into Communications. Oddly enough, he had been told he could apply for the position he currently holds…
AU Art+Design alumni were asked by Robyn Davis to write a letter on Professor Rudynski’s behalf through a Facebook group she started called ‘Call To Arms’ in early November of 2014. I was moved to take part…writing and submitting a hard letter to the University President James Edwards (who was stepping down), the incoming University President Joel Pistole and the Dean of the Art+Design Department Joel Shrock.
Below is what was submitted…
To the President of Anderson University;
My name is David Schnuckel and I am Visiting Assistant Professor of Glass at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I am also an Anderson University graduate of 2003, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art Studio with an emphasis in Glass. It was a shame to hear of the dissolution of the AU glass facility a bit over a year ago…and then to hear of it happening again to the Art+Design Program altogether within more recent history. What a pity, what a shame. It certainly was a pivotal and sacred place for me in not only defining myself as an individual, but to begin defining who I now am as a practicing artist and educator. There is sadness in being unable to speak about its continued power now that it no longer exists. Yet there’s also a tremendous amount of gratefulness for who was on hand to help facilitate my development as faculty members of that time. Without Arlon Bayliss, Ray Freer, Kathleen Dugan, Jason Knapp and Kevin Rudynski’s patience, expertise, kindness, talent and tough love, I certainly wouldn’t be in the prestigious position that I am in the contemporary field of glass…nor would my sense of human decency and professionalism be in place without their mentorship and model.
I’m writing specifically to help salvage what can remain of that teaching legacy as you move forward with your very heartbreaking decision to retain the Visual Communication Design major without retaining the individual solely responsible for ultimately developing it. Professor Rudynski was initially hired to teach Graphic Design and did so for 24 years. Yet, within that notable block of time he went over and above teaching a set of courses to developing one of the most resonant, recognizable design programs in the Midwest, if not the entire country. Rudyinski’s energy, vision and commitment to his personal design practice was very much present in his teaching; a contagious merging of passion, talent, humility and professionalism that influenced a long, long list of successful graduates coming specifically from his Program.
His effectiveness far exceeded the success of the students within his department and played a critical part in the student development of all AU Art + Design majors through his role as Co-Chair of the Art + Design Program…developing curricular strategies for students to become well-rounded artists, individual professionals and international community members. Both directly and indirectly, Rudynski’s presence has had impact on everybody’s growth and development during my tenure as a student, whether we were studying Graphic Design or not.
For me, Rudynski’s demand for the utmost of one’s thought, care and consideration in who and what his/her actions affected seems to be one of the most resonant qualities I developed as a student under his watch…qualities that I still value highly and attempt to pass on to students of my own. Rudyinski helped me develop the means to engage in a successful career as a disciplined problem solver and critical thinker. He prepared me to adhere to the highest professional standards of creative ideation and the craftsmanship of how one integrates those things through materiality. Rudyinski contributed to my ability to conceive, design, fabricate and resolve personal, speculative work that is not only of the highest quality, but work that stands alone as original and inventive. In turn, Rudynski ultimately led me towards developing an ability to apply freedom of thought, imagination and inquiry in ways that not only lead to making significant contributions to my students, colleagues and community here in Rochester, New York, but unto the international field of contemporary glass as a whole.
Rudynski was (and still certainly is) effective for a great many reasons, but all of them take root in a sincere and profound tendency to care. Do not deny future Visual Communication Design majors this very important individual within their lives by looking elsewhere to hire. Please take into account the points of this strongly convicted letter in relation to the points of the many other convicted letters submitted by alumni deeply influenced by Kevin Rudynski. Your current and prospective Visual Communication Design majors are counting on you to count on him.
With great Sincerity,
Visiting Assistant Professor of Glass
Rochester Institute of Technology
73 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, New York 14623