Stephen Powell ’74, H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Art, will be recognized as a Distinguished Educator by The James Renwick Alliance. The award signifies a reputation for excellence and innovation in a craft education program, as well as an influence on both students and the craft as a whole. Powell will accept the award on March 25 in Washington, D.C.
“I am certainly honored to be recognized by The James Renwick Alliance, probably the most prestigious national organization that deals with American craft,” Powell says. “I feel as though I share this honor with Centre, which has allowed and nurtured my crazy dreams about having a glass studio. Together with Centre, we have developed a national model for the teaching of glass and incorporating it in to the liberal arts setting.”
Powell recognizes that working at a liberal arts institution like Centre has given him tremendous opportunities as a professor.
“The best thing about being a professor is working in an atmosphere where creativity and personal expression is valued,” he says. “Liberal arts means a lot for me. I like people who can think out of the box and appreciate that all people are different.”
In his acceptance speech for the Distinguished Educator Award, Powell will talk about the joy of being able to teach students from many disciplines at Centre.
“I point out that it is a teacher’s responsibility to share with students from all walks of life. I mention that over 95 percent of the students I teach at Centre are not even art majors,” he says. “I go on to say that some of my very best students are science and English majors.”
Despite his many accomplishments and accolades, Powell finds it easy to select the pinnacle of his career as a professor of art.
“As an educator, I am most proud of mine and Centre’s relationship with the greatest living glass artist, perhaps of all time: Lino Tagliapietra. The highlight of my teaching and professional career was when Centre gave Lino, along with [former Supreme Court Chief Justice] Sandra Day O’Conner, an honorary doctoral degree at Commencement,” Powell says. “This was Lino’s first degree, certainly his first doctoral degree, and it further instilled in Lino a strong sense of loyalty and fondness for Centre. Lino has been to Centre six times since his first visit in 2000. What an experience for our students!”
Powell teaches his students through example quite often in the glass studio of the Jones Visual Arts Center, but he also recalls moments of learning while teaching.
“I close my acceptance remarks with a description of the most remarkable ‘teaching while learning’ experience I have ever had. It took place last November when Lino made a private trip to Danville just to help me develop a new shape I was working on,” Powell says. “We started on a Saturday morning early. I had not told my students who was coming, but I told them they really should be at the glass studio early Saturday morning to see a special guest. I think they were shocked when Lino came strolling in with me. So for two days my students watched and helped as Lino taught me. It was the experience of a lifetime.”