“For undergraduate and graduate students alike, Ben was a consummate professor and educator, a master of form,” says Erik Brandt (M.F.A. ’00). Benjamin “Ben” Randolph Day II, a professor in the former Department of Communication Arts and Design, was a highly respected and beloved teacher at VCUarts until he retired in 2005 and passed away in 2011; he was also well known as the co-author of “Typographic Design: Form and Communication,” published in 1985 and the ultimate reference book for design students.
Professor Day had a huge effect on students like Deborah Shmerler (M.F.A. ’98). She eventually went on to become an Associate Professor of Design at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and then the director of Graduate Studies for their School of Art. Shmerler says, “For Ben, design and life were one. He had the innate ability of looking at a design problem through the eyes of a poet and a pragmatist. This systematic approach was echoed in all he did–from teaching and writing to his own design and collage work. For those of us who went on to teach, his mentorship, intelligence and kindness had a profound impact on us and ultimately on our own students.”
Rand and Alene Day grew up with their father’s passion for his craft and have a keen understanding of why Day was such a popular professor. [Rand] Day explains, “His eye was brilliant! There is not a project that I have done in my adult years that I did not most value my dad’s guidance … He would delicately guide me down the path, trying to see the project through my lens to an end result.” Day’s gentle counsel created a home environment that embraced the power of learning or, as his son recalls, the ability “to continue passionately with a project.”
“Teaching was my Dad’s life. He loved it,” says Alene Day. “Students clamored to be in his classes and he continued those relationships long after he retired.” Professor Day’s children plan to keep his legacy alive with the Ben Day Scholarship, a fund at VCUarts that will benefit up-and-coming design students in the department.