Elaine Wagner retires after 29 years
When Elaine Wagner joined the faculty of the College in 1982 as an assistant professor of advertising, she immediately started building the design and creative curriculum for the department’s students. She also jumped right in assisting the College and the University with their design needs, helping Jim Terhune that fall with the redesign of the communigator and working on the design of other publications and graphic needs for other colleges and units across the campus.
She continued that drive over the course of her career, and now 29 years and many design and creative advertising courses later, Wagner retired as professor of advertising in June and today resides in Austin, Texas.
“My students became the center of my world while I was in Gainesville,” said Wagner. “I wanted them to learn and grow. I was sometimes criticized for being too demanding, but I did have high expectations of performance. I knew that if my students were starting careers in advertising or communication, they would be expected to demonstrate confidence and succeed right out of school. I wanted them to be prepared.”
The first fulltime female faculty member in the department of advertising, Wagner developed the College’s first graphics laboratory and pushed her students to master their design and creative advertising skills.
“My teaching goals always centered on students demonstrating that they actually learned the information and skills,” Wagner said. “I converted all of my creative classes to mastery classes, that is to ‘approval’ or ‘redo.’ I always said to my students ‘clients don’t give you a grade; they say, yes, no or maybe, so keep working on it.’ Mastery-Learning gave me a way of bringing that into the classroom.”
Wagner also was at the forefront in introducing computers into the creative, design and graphic production curriculum. She was particularly dismayed in the late 1980s when the College became PC-based. “While research was obviously PC-based in the beginning, it was clear that designers, commercial printers and creative advertising were all centered on Apple’s Mac computers,” Wagner said.
“I knew that if my students were starting careers in advertising or communication, they would be expected to demonstrate confidence and succeed right out of school.”
She worked hard over the years to stay on top of the rapid changes in technology and make certain the College was using the latest advancements to teach its students, eventually getting those Mac computers for the graphics labs.
“Elaine pushed the College to purchase Mac computers for our students to learn graphics and design,” said Dean John Wright. “She realized early on our students needed to be learning on Mac computers. She was truly a pioneer in moving graphics and design into the computer age.”
Over the past three years, Wagner has been on family leave from the College, as she cared for her mother and brother through illnesses that ultimately ended in their deaths.
“Elaine’s retirement leaves a void in the creative side of our department,” said John Sutherland, chair of the department. “Dozens of her students won local, regional and national awards for their work over the years. She was three times honored as the College’s Teacher of the Year and won the University-wide award. She was always willing to share her talents with the department and the College and push us to higher design standards. She will be missed.”
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