Cancer at SCAD. Again.

This is unreal.

I just received an email that a professor from my alma mater, the Savannah College of Art & Design is dying of brain cancer. The email states that they’re not publicizing this information yet, so I won’t reveal his name. He was an original professor at the college and “beloved” doesn’t begin to describe the man. I know that up until two years ago, he was still working at the college. I took 3 classes with him, always a fight to get in to since they filled up quickly. I close my eyes now and I can still hear his voice in my head, nearly 20 years later. He made me think about art and the world in a way that had never been opened to me before. Amazing, brilliant man. Wicked sense of humor. The last time I was in Savannah was in 2000 and I’m grateful now that I ran into him and we talked for a bit.

The news in itself is devastating. The unreal part is that I had four favorite professors at SCAD. These are the professors that I used to look to as mentors and friends. This man I just heard about, Dan Fantauzzi (chair of the Graphic Design department), Jim Bostwick (Graphic Design professor) and Jim Alley (Computer Arts professor…the man who introduced me to my very first Macintosh).

Dan Fantauzzi died of cancer. Jim Bostwick died of cancer. Jim Alley died of cancer. And now this. The first three were within a few years of each other. These are just the professors I knew!! In 2003, it was revealed that 9 of 13 of the original faculty who worked in the first SCAD building (Preston Hall, now known as Poetter Hall) were sick or dead. In 2003 there was an investigation to see if there was an environmental reason. Back then, SCAD didn’t build anything from scratch. They took old buildings and restored them. Preston Hall was an old armory.

No links were found.

Repeated inspections, including ones by federal investigators, failed to find a link between air quality in Poetter Hall and the illnesses. But experts’ evaluations often leave as many questions as answers about indoor air quality and illness. That happened with Poetter Hall.

Coincidence? Maybe.

I’ve often thought of visiting Savannah again. But then I realize that there isn’t a single person at the school that I would want to make a trip to meet up with. They’re all dead or dying.

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3 thoughts on “Cancer at SCAD. Again.

  1. Rodriguez E. says:

    Hi, I just ran across your article. As far as the Cancer deal these guys were smokers, I did not quite know if Ben did but the other did.There was alot of crazy politcs going at that time “86-87. I returned in ’92.

    I am a SCAD graduate 1996, I had the distinct pleasure of studying under all three professors. Dan Fantauzzi was the Dean at the time. Jim Alley was really cool. I took Production from him and worked in the Computer Lab. All of them were like mentors and really great guys to know. I will never forget how the one professor I admired and if it was’nt for him i would not have finsihed my degree and thats Ben C. Morris. If you had a chance to meet him, consider yourself fortunate. i would not have made emotionally with out his encouragement, sense of humor and loyalty to his students. He may not have relized it, but he transformed from a a “wanna-be” artist, jsut in Drawing 1, 2 and three. At that time, I couldnt wait until the next semester. Also Professor Brown, these guys saw my talent/potential.

  2. Judi Sohn says:

    I never took a class with Ben Morris, but I certainly knew of him. At the time I was there he was only doing Illustration classes. I think I did meet him a few times.

    Dan and Jim Bostwick were smokers, but back then, so was I! I’m 99% sure Jim Alley wasn’t. Since none died of lung cancer, I highly doubt that was the link.

    Don’t you wish you could go back to SCAD now? It has changed so much. I wish I could afford to get my Masters.

  3. Ben was a great man. I loved his classes. I was there in 1995 when there were 500 students and Richard Rowen let me stay at his condo at no charge because my dorm wasn’t ready. Cancer… When I lived in Savannah, I noticed people in my office developing skin tags on their face. Same area, around their eyes. One guy had major bladder stones until he left Savannah. In 1998 NPR had a show about the Savannah Nuclear plant. This plant had no idea how to stop the leaking of the chemical tanks that had corroded into the ground and in the Savannah River. After hearing that, we moved. I feel the cancer problems could be caused by Savannah’s water. That’s my opinion.

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