Retiring Dean Pam Richardson reflects on the special nature of art students

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Monday, June 29th, 2015

On June 30, Pamela Richardson, Dean of Students at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, will begin to treat every day like it’s Saturday. As she retires from her 25 year career with the college, she reflected on her time at PCA&D and the special nature of the art students she has worked with throughout her career.

Richardson began at PCA&D in August 1990, when the college was still Pennsylvania School of Art & Design, offering a 3-year diploma, just three years after moving to Lancaster. Her first positions with the school were in the areas of Development and Continuing Education, following her 20 year stint at the School of Visual Arts, New York. The school was small. Richardson said, “The school was not hugely staffed and that suited me. I’ve always liked a bootstrap organization, where you must do whatever is needed; where you just pitch in.”

Pam_at_graduation1She was made Dean of the College in 1995, working with then recently appointed president, Mary Colleen Heil. In this role she assisted with both student life and academic issues and was involved in the transition from school to accredited college. In the fall of 1999, Pennsylvania School of Art & Design was approved as a college and awarded degree granting privileges by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and in 2000, the school changed its name to Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.

As the College grew, an Academic Dean was hired and Richardson took on the role of Dean of Students, where she relished the opportunity to build relationships with the students and participate in their growth as people and as artists. She doesn’t consider herself to be much of a talker. She is much more of a listener. “98% of my job was not about students’ schedules; it was about students’ lives.”

pam_at_graduation_2“I love working with this age. Art students have such a lack of artifice. So you cannot be false. I always felt that it was important not to get full of yourself. The students keep you honest.”

“I learned that students typically don’t want immediate answers. They just need information that allows them to make their own decisions and choices. When students tell me that because I said or did something, it made a difference to them, I am always surprised to hear that kind of thing but I value it all the same.”

“The life of an artist is hard. I have lots of respect for our students’ efforts. As an artist, you cannot lie to yourself because the lifestyle involves constant critique. It’s humbling. I find it very moving to watch students grow at PCA&D. As freshmen, they are so tentative about themselves and their art. But then they graduate four years later with the ability to figure out anything they need to and communicate it well. Even if they don’t continue to make art, they own a way of thinking that is going to be important to them all their lives. They see the world so clearly. They are real humanists.”

Pam_at_graduation_1As she approaches her last day at PCA&D, Richardson is looking forward to doing this summer “live like I am seven and just out of school.” She has no immediate plans. She is looking forward to spending time in the gardens of her Peach Bottom home and working with animal rescue, a cause she feels strongly about.

She will be missed. Mary Colleen Heil, PCA&D President, said, But she trained us well and we will do our best to live up to her example.”

Jessica_EdonickJessica L. Edonick will replace Richardson as the College’s new Dean of Students Services. Edonick, was most recently Academic Advisor, Drexel University for the Drexel Network at Delaware County Community College. Prior to her role as Advisor, Edonick served as the Director of Commuter and Transfer Student Engagement and also served in a variety of other positions at Drexel University since 2004. Edonick earned her Master of Arts in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan and her Bachelor of Arts in History from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

(Dean Pam Richardson illustration by Jessica Steigelman)