It seems hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, I was reading daily updates from the Art Department at Grace about Prof. Art Davis going in for surgery, and the optimism about making a full recovery from his cancer. I smiled when I heard that it had been successful, and that he was back at home recovering, and grading senior portfolios with his wife on the couch. Then, suddenly, the cancer spread, fast and vicious, to his spine and liver, and he was back in the hospital again, going downhill fast. He was only there a few days, and died April 30.
I didn't go to the memorial service, as we had company over, but I talked to people who had gone, and was surprised to hear the tales of steady prodding and encouragement — usually, the best I had gotten out of him in class when my pieces came up for discussion was, "OK, that works," before moving on to the next piece. Twenty years of being told you were a good artist didn't count for much here. If nothing else, it was grim practice for the unappreciation of my first (and very nearly last) job as a graphic designer. The guy just about had me convinced I was mediocre, and that the best I could hope for was to not have my work criticized publicly.
Near the end of my penultimate semester, as I was getting ready to go get married, and get a job, I was sitting in his office, when his phone rang. He took the call.
"This is Art Davis." (pause)
"Of course. One of the most talented and creative individuals ever to come through our program."
My jaw just about fell off my face as he proceeded to give the most amazing reference I've ever heard. Whoever it was, I wanted to meet them, just to know who it was Prof. thought so highly of.
"Wow," I said, once he'd hung up, "what I'd do to get a reference like that!"
Prof. looked at me with a quizzical, pained expression.
"That was for you."
Thanks, Prof. Davis. Thank you.