Passing of Former VP and Former Art Professor

Don Ray – I wrote a few days ago about our former Vice President for Development, Don Ray.  He passed away yesterday.  I’ll post remembrance of Don in the new few days.  Visitation – Friday from 4:00 – 7:00 PM, Wright & Ferguson Funeral Home, 1161 Highland Colony Pkwy,
Ridgeland | Funeral Service – Saturday at 2:00 PM, Highlands Presbyterian Church, 1160 Highland Colony Pkwy, Ridgeland, MS

Jon Whittington – Also yesterday, one of our longest serving faculty members died, Jon Whittington.  Below is the story from the Clarion Ledger.  Jon brought our art department to national distinction, and his influence on students was vast during the 24 years he taught at Belhaven.

Whittington, longtime art professor, dies at 74
Written by
Sherry Lucas

Longtime art professor Jon Whittington died in his sleep Saturday of natural causes at his Jackson home. He was 74.

Visitation is 9-11 a.m. Wednesday with a memorial at 11 a.m. at Wright & Ferguson Funeral Home in Jackson.

Whittington was art professor and art department chairman at East Mississippi Community College, Belhaven University (then Belhaven College, his alma mater) and Antonelli College.

“He was the art director that got Belhaven’s art department accredited,” longtime companion Dawn Chisholm said. He was also a Legacy of Learning recipient at the school and had won numerous awards for his designs. “Jon was a teacher first and foremost.”

Former students recalled Whittington as a magnetic, knowledgeable mentor whose impromptu art discussions in the hallway at Belhaven became a longstanding ritual and whose influence on the local art community is still felt.

“He was a soft-spoken person with a big presence,” said Eyd Kazery of Raymond, who was a business major when he took Whittington’s art class for credits to graduate. “He sparked my passion for photography,” said Kazery, who is well-known regionally for his iconic Mississippi photographs. “It turned out to be a life-changing experience.”

“I know he’s touched many lives,” said Gretchen Haien, a Jackson photographer and associate professor of art at Belhaven University, who was also a former student of his. He allowed her to help teach and provided an opportunity for independent work; he connected skill and opportunity for his students.

Clinton watercolor artist Wyatt Waters, then a student at Mississippi College, recalled an exhibit of Whittington’s paintings at Belhaven, with a string quartet, that “set a standard of things to be done by.”

“He was a very unassuming person, very shy with his work and very generous with his teaching,” Waters said.

Carl Coleman, a former student and now full-time artist in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., said, “He was my mentor, he was my surrogate father, he was my best friend.

“He just took pride in helping everybody, individually, to progress, based on their needs. He would strengthen you in any way he could. He was just an excellent teacher, but he was also a great artist.”

Coleman, who’ll deliver the eulogy at the service, said of the dozens of people he’d contacted in the wake of Whittington’s death, “every one of them said, ‘I wouldn’t have my job or my sanity if it wasn’t for Mr. Whittington.’ ”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *