The ‘Type’ you won’t forget

Semi-retirement for MSU Graphic design professor

Graphic design professor is stepping down from teaching but isn’t saying goodbye to MSU yet

MANKATO, Minn.—After 44 years of teaching at Minnesota State University, Mankato associate professor of graphic design, Harlan Bloomer, is set to retire next week when the semester concludes.

Regarding his decision to retire, Bloomer said he thought it was time to move on to another phase in his life.  Bloomer accepted the teaching position in the MSU Art Department soon after he received his MFA at the University of Michigan in 1968 and hasn’t left since.

“It was a good fit for me,” said Bloomer. “There was no design program when I came here … and I had a chance to build the program.”

Not going anywhere

 For Bloomer’s colleagues and returning students in the fall, this is not goodbye. Chair of the Art Department Jim Johnson said Bloomer will continue to direct and manage MSU’s Conkling Art Gallery as an adjunct next year.

“He does a great job at that,” said Johnson. “There are lots of communications he has to maintain with the various people that we want to bring in and coordinate when they’re going to be here and how much they get paid and who’s going to pick them up from the airport.”

Bloomer took on responsibilities as the gallery director years ago with basically no compensation or course reduction. Johnson admitted it’s a lot of work.

“I tend to be a team player and I like to contribute,” Bloomer said. “I’ve always been apart of the departmental committee structure.”

As an adjunct next fall, Bloomer will have time to do some of his own design work.

“I haven’t really had a lot of opportunities to do much freelance and I’d like to do that,” said Bloomer.

Search continues for new graphic design professor

The art department conducted a search this year for someone to fill a tenure-track vacancy but couldn’t find anybody who met department standards. Instead, the search is on for a fixed-term candidate to teach the next academic year while they continue to review applications for a tenure-track vacancy.

“We changed the requirements up a little bit to ease up a little on some of the technical aspects to try to encourage a little larger pool,” Johnson said. “A tenure-track vacancy in graphic design can be hard to fill because there are a lot of schools looking to fill similar positions.”

David Rogers, associate graphic design professor, is the most recent member of the graphic design staff. He will take over Bloomer’s courses that emphasize typography so the department is looking for a candidate to take on interactive classes.

“We hope we can find someone to take on the interactive role that I’ve been playing for the past two years,” said Rogers.

The art department hopes to hire a tenure-track graphic design professor who has:

  • Interest in interactive design
  • Strong design sensibility
  • Expertise in new computer technologies
  • Commitment to teaching and research

Other qualifications and responsibilities can be found on the Notice of Vacancy for the position.

Rogers said they hope to get the fixed-term position filled early summer.

Why Bloomer will still be missed

Although Bloomer will be back in the fall, the department and his students will miss his presence in the classroom.

Graphic design student, Lee Thorburn, is a senior and had Bloomer as an adviser. Thorburn said he doesn’t think the department will find someone like Bloomer to replace in the classroom.

“I think it’s just going to be really hard to find somebody who has all the qualities that he has. I guess just somebody who’s willing to work with you and have a good time,” said Thorburn.

Matt Willemsen, associate design professor, said Bloomer was a nurturing faculty member who cared a lot about his students. Bloomer befriended Willemsen and helped him adapt to the program when he arrived to MSU in 2005.

“It’s hard to predict what kind of dynamic you’ll have with a new faculty member. The 3 faculty members in design right now, including myself, have a good relationship–a good report. And we enjoy each others company and I think that’s important because it allows us to push the program into positive directions and we’re hoping to find someone who can maintain that dynamic relationship with us.”

On Thursday, students of the MNSU AIGA Student Chapter concluded their meeting with a surprise celebration for Bloomer.

MSU's AIGA Student Chapter surprised Bloomer with a retirement cake.
Photo taken by Brian Frink

–Mel Bishop