The College of the Arts bids adieu to five long-serving faculty members from its departments of Theatre and Dance and Art and Design at the end of this academic year. Their total years of service, when combined, equal more than 200 years! Given their exceptional seniority of experience at Montclair State, these veterans could collectively fill volumes of encyclopedias with their first-hand accounts of, and reflections on, Montclair State University through decades of changes. The College of the Arts thanks them and wishes them well in their next phases of life.
Department of Theatre and Dance
42 Years of Service
September 1971 – May 2013
Linda Roberts has been on the faculty of Montclair State University since 1971. In 2001, she was awarded the Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Award. Over the years, she has developed and taught a number of courses and helped to establish new degree programs for the University. She currently teaches Dance History, Improvisation, Dance Appreciation, Methods and Materials for Teaching Dance, and a section of the new Student Seminar course for dance majors. She has also been active at the New Jersey state level in developing a new teacher certification for dance.
Roberts said she wanted to work at Montclair State shortly after completing her graduate degree at Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1971, as it was close to New York City, where she could continue training and performing. Soon after, she said she “fell in love with the campus and students and also enjoyed working with faculty and administrators who were committed to the education of the student body.”
However, she quickly adds, it wasn’t only the University officials who were committed then.
“In 1971, the majority of the students at Montclair State College, as it was known then, were among the first-generation children to attend college,” she explains. “Providing their offspring with the opportunity to pursue a college degree was a goal for many families. These students embraced the college experience and the expansiveness of a college education.”
Among the many changes Roberts said she has witnessed at Montclair State has been the evolution of space. She was originally hired to teach folk, square and modern dance to the physical education majors, as well as choreography I to speech and theatre majors, but the present-day facilities didn’t exist.
“Originally, I was assigned to teach dance on the wrestling mats in Panzer and to teach choreography on the cement floor in the Fox Theatre; needless to say, these surfaces were inappropriate for dance training,” she recalled. “Eventually, the dance classes were relocated to Life Hall. Today, the studios occupy the space that was the campus cafeteria in the ’70s.”
Another big change is the growth of dance-degree programs, as well as Montclair State’s reputation as a whole.
“In the early ’70s, a degree in dance did not exist at Montclair,” she said. “Today, the dance program offers a BFA pre-professional training degree and a BA degree with two teaching concentrations. The University has grown in size and in stature.
“I have been on the faculty at Montclair State for 42 years,” she added. “In that time, I have taught approximately 8,000 students.”
34 Years of Service
September 1979-May 2013
Dr. Suzanne Trauth coordinates the BFA Acting program and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in acting, directing, script analysis, and screenwriting. During her time in the Department of Theatre and Dance, she has served as department chair, graduate advisor, and managing director and has directed a variety of productions including Nicholas Nickleby, Grapes of Wrath, Flyin’ West, and The Laramie Project. She also directed The Middle Ages for the college’s professional unit Theatrefest, has served as an associate producer, and founded the College’ experimental Next Stage.
Trauth recalls her first impressions of Montclair State as a “lovely campus” and a noticeable change from Manhattan where she lived at the time. She also remembers colleagues in the Department of Speech and Theatre, as it was called then, as friendly.
Some of the biggest changes Trauth has seen in her tenure relate to the addition of buildings, parking garages, and dorm rooms, as well as personnel changes, and the birth of new programs and growth in student enrollment.
“I saw Montclair State move from a ‘mom-and-pop’ college to a major university with a national reputation,” she said. “The same holds true for the department and BFA Acting program.
“The transitions have been enormous. I’ve been here through five presidents and five College deans. And I have worked with so many colleagues and students who will remain a big part of my memory of Montclair State.”
Department of Art and Design
Prof. William McCreath
Department of Art and Design
47 Years of Service
September 1966-May 2013
Bill McCreath began teaching at then-Montclair State College in September 1966, when the Ceramics program consisted of one undergraduate course and one graduate course, with around 30 students enrolled each semester.
“It was an entirely different world than the world in which I was immersed during my previous six years,” he recalled. “The department was, at that time, not an art school. It was preparing candidates for teaching, not to be artists.”
Through McCreath’s energy and direction, the program today includes 100-plus BA and BFA students.
“In terms of programs, we’ve gone from having just one focus to offering this kaleidoscope of opportunities for students,” he said.
McCreath added the University has also undergone unbelievable physical transformations during his tenure.
“In terms of facilities, the campus has filled up,” he said. “Previously, there was a huge quarry, so there have been amazing changes in terms of facilities.”
Through the years McCreath was actively involved in the planning of the BA and BFA in Studio programs. While chairperson of the department, he and Ms. Dianne Rivetti (of the Registrar’s Office) were jointly responsible for the introduction of the BFA in Studio program. McCreath also developed a minor in Studio, and, with the guidance of Associate Dean Ronald Sharps and Rivetti, successfully steered it to inclusion in the Department’s program offerings.
Around 1998, through his professional exhibition activity and through the good reputation that Montclair State’s ceramics program had earned, he was approached by Prof. Gil Hong Han of Seoul National University of Technology (SNUT) to explore the possibility of developing an organization of ceramic artists from the United States and from South Korea. Out of McCreath’s friendship with Prof. Han, opportunities for exchange programs between Montclair State and SNUT have grown and have since been formalized. One recent exchange was an exhibition, curated by McCreath, of ceramic works of SNUT students and faculty that was installed in the George Segal Gallery on campus.
For the past several years, McCreath has been the advisor for the recently established Minor in Studio as well as the Department’s admissions/recruitment coordinator, overseeing the admission of many talented students to the Department’s growing programs.
Although he looks forward to the next phase of his career, McCreath said there are things he will miss from Montclair State.
“I’ve enjoyed being part of a very exciting development and I have many fond memories of this institution that has been my home for 47 years,” he said. “I will miss the ‘stage fright’ before the start of each semester.
36 Years of Service
1977– May 2013
Walter Swales joined the faculty of Montclair State University in 1977, where he has served as head of the Sculpture area for the past 36 years. As an undergraduate American literature major at Temple University in Philadelphia, Swales’ interest in art was piqued by a series of elective studio courses he took during his senior year. This led to his further education at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he completed his MFA in Sculpture. He remained in Michigan subsequent to graduating, teaching and making art, until coming to Montclair State, where he has served as area head of Sculpture for the past 36 years. Swales maintains an active sculpture studio on a two-acre property in Denville, N.J., and has shown at Amos Eno Gallery (Brooklyn, NY) for many years.
Swales shared his first impressions of Montclair State, as well as the changes he's witnessed.
"I saw it as an opportunity," he recalled in coming to Montclair. "Although [at the time] I realized the limitations of the facility, I was impressed by my colleagues in the department: they were friendly, intelligent, and supportive.
He said he'll miss the students.
"The initial pleasure still continues: working with young people as they mature as artists and people. I have always enjoyed the students," he said.
Prof. Peter Barnet
Department of Art and Design
48 Years of Service
February 1965- May 2013
Peter Barnet grew up in the center of the New York City art world where he was privileged to meet many of the most famous abstract-expressionists and pop artists, with his primary aesthetic initially being formed by watching his famous parent, Will Barnet, paint and teach.
In the late 1950s, Peter began to exhibit his own work in Provincetown, Mass., and has since become represented by the 10/4 and Chuck Levitan galleries in NYC and reviewed in prestigious publications including Arts, Art News and Art in America.
Barnet joined the faculty of the Department of Art and Design where he has taught painting since 1965. He recalled the University much more education-centered then, as it was just emerging from being a teacher’s college and beginning to expand into other areas. The campus was much smaller, too.
“Of course the physical campus has grown immensely -- Calcia Hall didn’t even exist,” he said. “I first taught classes in Quonset huts on the road along the ridge that leads up to Life Hall.”
It was also a different time he noted.
"This was 1965 and the times were turbulent,” he said. “Several years later, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, and the commencement speaker was Bayard Rustin, who was an associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. The speech he gave in the amphitheater was very moving and very much in the moment. He spoke about the social changes taking place, and I was very impressed with that. It was probably one of the best commencement speeches I’ve ever heard.”
Another equally-memorable moment he cited was when a contingent of faculty and students from Montclair State participated in a march against the war in Vietnam and for social justice in 1967.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was leading the march. It was one of those events that one never forgets,” he recalled. “It was the largest anti-war demonstration at that time. In fact, around the time when many were protesting the Vietnam War, the students, and many young faculty actually totally shut down Montclair State for many days at a time,” he said, adding such anti-war demonstrations were going on at other colleges and around the nation at the time.
Barnet said that he thoroughly enjoyed his many years at Montclair State and is very grateful for the opportunity to have worked in such a wonderful environment.
“I will greatly miss my wonderful colleagues, especially many of the ‘old timers,’ ” he said. “I also have very fond memories of many of my students.
“And I feel I have been blessed with one of the most wonderful careers in all the world,” he added. “My main focus has always been on how to be a good teacher. It is wonderful to make a living doing something you love and care about, and I really love art and I really love teaching.