Long-time professor says goodbye to teaching

Graphic design professor who helped build program retiring

Art department continues search for replacement faculty

MANKATO, Minn. — After 44 years at Minnesota State University as an associate professor of art in graphic design, Harlan Bloomer, will retire from teaching when the semester comes to a close next week.

Efforts to replace Bloomer have been unsuccessful, as an art department search for a tenure-track faculty member to fill the vacancy failed earlier this spring.

“We didn’t find anybody who met the department standards,” said department chairman Jim Johnson. “So we failed that search. Now we’re conducting a search for a fixed-term person that’s not tenure-track.”

Because the hiring procedure for tenure-track professors is lengthy, the fixed-term faculty will offer a temporary solution.

“There is a definite process that one has to go through in order to hire someone at the university level and we’re going through that process,” said Associate Professor of Graphic Design Mathew Willemsen. “Hopefully we’ll be successful sometime soon.”

Department staff met on Monday to discuss applicants for the fixed-term position which would last for one year and allow the department more time to find a qualified tenure-track candidate, which Johnson said is often hard to do.

“We changed the requirements a little bit to ease up a little on some the technical aspects to try to encourage a little larger pool,” Johnson said. “A tenure-track vacancy in graphic design can be hard to fill because there are a lot of schools looking to fill similar positions.”

Qualifications the department is looking for in a tenure-track graphic design professor include:

  • Expertise in graphic design
  • Knowledge of new computer technologies.
  • Commitment to teaching and research
  • Strong design sensibility
  • Interest in interactive design

“Our goal is to find someone who really wants to take on our interactive role, handling the web side and mobile web,” said David Rogers, assistant professor of graphic design.

Rogers has been teaching interactive graphic design since he was hired at MSU in 2010, but will shift his focus next fall to typography, which has been Bloomer’s main area of instruction.

Big shoes to fill

Besides finding a candidate with the right qualifications, the hardest aspect of hiring a new faculty member will be finding a someone as well-liked and respected as Bloomer, who helped to create the graphic design major at MSU, said Willemsen.

“He brings a fatherly figure to the table and he’s very nurturing and how can you replace somebody who’s been here 44 years,” Willemsen said.

Johnson, who has worked with Bloomer for the past 33 years, echoed the sentiment.

“Harlan is a great friend. He gets along with everybody,” Johnson said. “He can be somewhat mischievous and friendly, he keeps things lively around here. I don’t know if a new person will do that.”

Bloomer’s light-hearted and mischievous behavior has kept colleges guessing at times, but Rogers said his welcoming demeanor has made new faculty feel comfortable much more quickly than expected.

“He’s kind of our jokester so he initiates a lot of silly correspondents via e-mail,” said Rogers. “He keeps us on our toes with his quirkiness”

In addition to Bloomer’s quirky personality, his commitment and involvement within the art department has left a lasting impression on his students as well.

Students have been able to form strong bonds of friendship with Bloomer because he is able to see them an equals.

Teaching, Bloomer said, “is really like going to work with colleagues because most of the students are so mature.”

MSU senior and graphic design student, Lee Thorburn said he’s grown quite fond of Bloomer, who is also his adviser. He attributes his success in the design program to Bloomer’s instruction and encouragement.

“I don’t think they’re ever really going to find somebody who fills the void that he’s going to leave here,” said Thorburn. “I think it’s going to be really hard to find somebody who has all of the qualities that he has.”

What’s next?

Though he is retiring from teaching, Bloomer will not be leaving the university. He will remain director of the Conkling Art Gallery in Nelson Hall and assist with scheduling and show installation in the Centennial Student Union gallery as well.

“He does a great job with that,” Johnson said. “There are lots of communications he has to maintain with the various people that we want to bring in and coordinate when they’re going to be here and how much they get paid and who’s going to pick them up from the airport.”

Bloomer has acted as the gallery director for several years while also managing his teaching workload. However, he’s looking forward to the change in responsibilities.

“I thought it was just time for me to move on to another phase of my life,” said Bloomer.

Bloomer said he would still look fondly on his long teaching career at MSU after retirement and the good times he has had.

“It has been a wonderful journey,” he said. “It’s been a good fit.”

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