Rewards of being a professor

Sometimes we go through life wondering if what we’re doing is worthwhile, or if what we do makes a difference. The enormity of the universe can sometimes simply be overwhelming when we consider how small we are in comparison. But, occasionally moments arrive which bring clarity to what we do and we realize we have been a part of something good. Such was the case this past weekend.

Several years ago while I was teaching photography at the Art Institute of Colorado, I had the pleasure of having an exceptional student arrive in one of my studio classes. He had just recently served in the Marines and he didn’t fit the stereotypic role of college students. He was driven to excel and that he did very well! As he neared graduation, he talked with me several times about his desire to study photojournalism and attending grad school. I wrote a few letters of recommendation and eventually he was accepted into the PJ grad program at Boston University. That made me very happy!

Nearly three years ago, after he completed all his course work, he set off to pursue his graduate thesis project, which was a lengthy cultural photo essay, in China. He’s had many adventures living, working, and photographing in mainland China, specifically in a city called Jiujiang. In order to immerse himself in the local culture, he accepted a teaching position at Jiujiang University and has produced an excellent book. So when he sent out an email stating he was coming home (in the St. Louis area) for a short vacation, I was excited when he agreed to take time from his hectic schedule to have lunch with me! To be able to sit down and share a meal with my young friend and listen to his stories and his excitement as a photographer was one of those sublime moments in my life. It made me realize why I got into teaching photography and that indeed, being a professor is absolutely worthwhile!

You can see his work at his website, by clicking here. His book, Jiujiang: 九江 Nine Rivers, can be reviewed and purchased by clicking here.

In this photo, Chad Owsley on left, and Terry Ownby. © 2010

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