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In tribute: Alexander S. Lawson ‘47

Author, educator, historian and typography authority Alexander S. Lawson, a mentor to thousands of RIT printing students from 1947 to 1977, died May 6, 2002, in Sun City, Fla.

Alexander S. Lawson '47

Professor Lawson’s fascination with the entire graphic arts process and its craftsmen began at age 16 when he went to work as a copy boy for the New York American. Following his service in World War II, Al Lawson entered RIT. After receiving his diploma in 1947, he was asked to teach hand composition. His work experience, his rapport with GIs and his initiative in researching the history of printing and typography made him a perfect choice for the job.

Mr. Lawson led the School of Printing faculty in publishing books and articles. Among many works, his “labor of love” was The History of the School of Printing written at the request of Dr. Mark Guldin, dean of the College of Graphic Arts and Photography. The volume was published under the Press of the Good Mountain label in 1987 on the school’s 50th anniversary.

His interest in a student’s project about Frederic W. Goudy led Professor Lawson to urge the RIT Board of Trustees to purchase artifacts from Goudy’s estate. Had it not been for his efforts, RIT would not have the Melbert Cary Collection of rare books. Consequently, Mr. Lawson was the first person to hold the Melbert Cary Professorship.

With encouragement of his son Doug, Mr. Lawson traded his stick for a computer at age 82 and continued his work under the name Dingbat Press. His wife and proofreader, Evelyn, was “treated to a full two-year course” and became resident computer repairman.

His parting message to all his friends was that he did not want them to mourn, but instead to drink a toast to him and to celebrate the many years of friendship.

This tribute was written by Howard Hansen ’67 (printing), president of the Museum of Printing, North Andover, Mass. Hansen is also owner of Hansen Brothers Printing Co., Stoughton, Mass.

If you would like to support the new Alexander S. Lawson Publishing Center or the Alexander Lawson Graduate Scholarship, please contact Deborah McKinzie in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at 585-475-2128 or send e-mail to dmbdsr@rit.edu.