Professor Bruce Rigby, who for the last four decades has guided and inspired thousands of art students at the College, will be retiring this December.
“It was about time to retire; I’m done,” Rigby joked, before adding: “I’ve spent two-thirds of my life teaching art. It’s time to do something else.”
After completing his BA in art at the University of Bridgeport, and his MA in drawing and MFA in painting at Northern Illinois University, Rigby came to the College to teach two-dimensional design, color theory, painting, and drawing in 1972.
“I started here in the seventies, when it was full of free expression,” he said recently. “There’s been a lot of advancement since then, and I’ve seen how art develops as the generations change.”
Rigby’s departure will be felt throughout the department, said colleagues.
“No one has committed more to the care and development of our curriculum and our students,” said Professor of Art History Lois Fichner-Rathus. “Now that Bruce is going on to other things, there has been, understandably, a lot of reflection on the ways in which he has served as a mentor and role model to generations of art majors. And of course that is exactly what he has been; there is none finer.”
“Bruce defines the ideal first professor: an exacting and demanding teacher with an unwavering good nature, sense of humor, energy, enthusiasm, and sensitivity,” added Lee Ann Riccardi, chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “Whether working with beginning students unsure about the direction their careers should take or with advanced students who need serious critique, he has been dedicated to enabling their personal and artistic development.”
One of those former students, Matthew Pembleton ’12, had this to say: “Almost every art student entering TCNJ had to take Color Theory with Professor Rigby. Though it was challenging, I think we all remember what we learned and were able to apply it to other classes. Some of the best memories and stories certainly came from his engaging, thought-provoking, and entertaining
“To teach effectively, you’ve got to know yourself and your subject,” said Rigby. “I love art, and I love teaching it.”
Rigby maintained an active artistic practice while teaching at TCNJ. His work has been featured in more than 185 exhibitions nationwide, including 20 one-person shows and, most recently, a month-long exhibition in TCNJ Art Gallery in commemoration of his retirement. His paintings are in the collections of the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton City Museum, and numerous corporate collections.
While Rigby will be missed, his inspirational, humorous, and infectious ways will not soon be forgotten. He left current students and those yet to come with this advice: “Always be true to your own ideas, goals, and self. Create with passion, work hard, and be the best you can be with whatever you choose to do in life.”