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Prof. James Chaney

Professor of Art Education and Crafts (retired)

Difference Maker

Nominator: Theo Uliano '07

Theo's Memories: I graduated from high school with a low GPA and a terrible attitude toward education; in reality, I almost didn't graduate from high school. Luckily for me, as far as my mother was concerned, not going to college was not an option. My grades were bad and my SATs were average, but I could draw and paint well, and I managed to scrape together a decent portfolio. I was accepted into Kutztown on the condition that I was on academic probation even before I set foot in my first class.

I began as a fine arts major, and did passably well, but I was still an uninspired student who was interested in other stuff. I did the minimum and floated by. In the periphery of my vision, however, was the Crafts Department; the tools, the noise and the objects being created made me curious. I was already bored with painting, so I entered the crafts program with the Introduction to Ceramics class.  I could throw well right off the bat (pun intended, a potters joke). I thought I would be able to cruise right through the major and get this whole college thing done with. I thought my college career from then on would be easy and low effort, and that I could get through my stint in higher education painlessly. Professor Chaney ruined all of that for me.

Nothing about being a ceramics major was easy-I had to work hard, spend days and nights in the studio, make hundreds of pots, stay up all night to fire the wood kiln and then get to Art History class at 8 a.m. the next morning. But I loved it. Somewhere toward the end of my first ceramics class with professor Chaney, I woke up to the possibilities of ceramics as an art form.  It was a challenge, and I could make it a career. 

Over the next two years, professor Chaney instilled in me a genuine intellectual curiosity, not just for ceramics and art, but for all forms of knowledge. Somehow, he challenged me in just the right way; he shared everything he knew about art and clay with his students, and he included me and the other students in everything he knew about the greater ceramic field, including the annual conferences, lectures and assorted exhibitions. I could write a book about all I've learned and continue to learn from professor Chaney.  Maybe, one day, I will.

After graduating from KU, and with professor Chaney's mentorship, I continued my education to earn a Master of Fine Art in ceramics from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Currently, I have a career as an internationally exhibiting artist, in addition to working full time for a non-profit organization called the Clay Studio in Philadelphia. I also teach part-time as an adjunct professor in ceramics at a small college in New Jersey, and it floors me when my students call me "professor." The old teenage slacker in my brain looks around and says "Who? What?"

I now call professor Chaney "Jim."  He continues to be my mentor and friend. My accomplishments would not have been possible if not for him. My experience with Jim and Kutztown University broadened my horizons and instilled in me an intellectual curiosity that continues to enrich my life.



Difference Makers Sponsored by PSECU