Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design

Looking in the rearview mirror…

The RIT 1954 yearbook, called Techmila, has always been a special nostalgia place for me. Memories come rushing back of a day when RIT was a very different place. Then it was small Rochester trade school preparing students to work in local industries like Eastman Kodak and Gleason Works. The school was aspiring to become something bigger…an institute of technology giving degrees. Located largely in a downtown city block, the facilities were small and old. All the faculty could fit in one room as did the library and bookstore.

The Art School was my home. In the beautiful Bevier Building, designed by local architect Claude Bragdon, the environment was conducive to the evolution of the educational program from old beaux-arts thinking to progressive Modernist ways of creative expression. Faculty from Europe were opening the eyes of students to wider horizons.

Overall there was a friendly atmosphere because everything was so close and felt intimate. Familiar faces and familiar places. The city afforded resources now long lost in the suburbs. Banks, barbershop, hotels, bars, pharmacies, restaurants, theatres, department stores…all the amenities of main Street USA were close by, seemingly just a few steps away.

The annual Spring weekend, the girls at Kate Gleason Hall, Jake’s Bar and Juke-box music, the Past Time Tavern and more.

No ivy but neon. City campus…city school…Not much nostalgia in concrete, but there are things…

Years pass and many of the great things go—leaving suspended in the mind montages of minor impressions. Images from 1954 are the small symbols we don’t forget, the little things that mean a past RIT and will continue in that unbelievable time when we’re the old alumni…looking backward.