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Love of photography leads to creation of scholarship

As a young man, magazine publisher Bob Elder fell in love with photography.

But he waited nearly 30 years to embrace that love fully. Making a living got in the way. “I just fell into the business side of printing and publishing,” he says.

Bob Elder

Coming of age in the ’60s, Elder thought he’d have time for his art while he worked first at John Wiley & Sons, then American Baby, followed by Cahners Publishing, eventually co-founding the magazine Kids Discover.

Now, semi-retired, he’s dusted off his 1970 Nikon FTN and also invested in a Nikon F5 to specialize in shooting the New York City club scene. His growing confidence and skills led him to produce large images for a solo SoHo exhibit in March 2001. He may do more at his leisure; meanwhile, he wants to help photographers in-the-rough learn their art in RIT’s program.

“I realized when I reached 60 that I needed to decide what to do with my estate,” says Elder. “Friends who are RIT printing alums, said, ‘That’s easy. You love photography – make a scholarship for students.’”

Elder has arranged to leave a majority of his estate to endow a full-tuition scholarship for photo students who will be judged on their portfolio and academic record. The award will include fees, housing and photographic materials. The first such photo scholarship at RIT, it will reward the best students.

“Bob Elder’s generosity is a wonderful endorsement of what the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences stands for,” says Joan Stone, dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. “To receive this now, during our centennial year, is especially meaningful. ”

Scholarships help individual recipients, but this kind of support also enriches the profession, says Stone.

“My intent is to support talented, focused students while they get the foundation they need,” says Elder. “They won’t have to graduate with school debt – they can go out, free and clear, and make remarkable images.

“Talent pushes you to look for the next great picture,” he adds. “But, I know from classes I’ve taken at the International Center for Photography (in Manhattan) that you need to learn the technology and how to apply the skills.”

Bob Elder wants to help gifted students with a passion to excel, to make their mark on the world. “I like to think I’m contributing to the success of a future Pulitzer or Nobel Prize winner; that, in some way, my gift will have made a difference in their success as professional photographers.”