The biggest gift Jacksonville University gives to our community is our alumni.
Alumni are polished products of the education they’ve received from their respective institutions. They carry their life experiences and school spirit into their careers, and pass it onto students from their alma mater when they come back to visit.
“Our alums are doing incredible work and making their communities better as artists,” says Dr. Timothy Snyder, Dean of The Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts (LBSCFA). “They’re all over the country and all over the world, and we’re going on a 60-year tradition of educating young men and women to not only be successful, employed and marketable, but to be engaged in the places they call home and make those places better.”
The LBSCFA will honor alumni Dr. Jennifer Pascual ’92 and Marq Mervin ’10 during Homecoming & Family Weekend 2019 for their outstanding achievements in their fields and communities since graduating from Jacksonville University.
Dr. Pascual and Professor Mervin rode their Fine Arts degrees into flourishing careers and communities that will forever remember their names, skills and contributions.
Dr. Pascual is a Performing Arts graduate who now serves as the first woman director of music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City as well as organist, recitalist and church musician. She received a Doctorate of Music from Eastman School of Music. She will be giving an organ concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.
Professor Mervin is a Visual Arts graduate. He is a multimedia designer, animator, illustrator and digital design professor at Florida State College of Jacksonville. Mervin’s work and advocacy revolve around providing underrepresented groups in the community with multiple access points to art education. Mervin’s work is featured in the alumni exhibition of the Alexander Brest Gallery.
The two will be honored during the third annual honored alumni breakfast on Saturday, Oct. 19. They’ll receive handmade awards that ultimately pay homage to the artistic background of the LBSCFA. Professor Jim Benedict, a sculpture professor, sculpted the awards. In years past, honorees received ceramics pieces produced by Associate Professor of Visual Arts Tiffany Leach and glass-blown pieces produced by Associate Professor of Glass Brian Frus.
“That’s something we began three years ago as a way to give our honorees a tangible artifact that’s also a work of art,” Dr. Snyder says.
There’s also another work of art that most attendees don’t notice: the selection of honorees and the breakfast that honors them. The effort is a work of art that the faculty of the Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts works months to create.
The process starts with Professor Kimberly Beasley, Chair of Music. She gathers faculty from all areas of the arts, along with a selection committee to consider the names of qualified graduates. From there, they look at each student’s credentials and body of work to come to a consensus.
How long does it take?
“We plan about eight months out,” Snyder says. “In February, faculty takes nominations and considers graduates. From there, decisions are made by early summer. At that time, I reach out to honorees and invite them to campus so we can honor them. We also make travel plans such as booking flights and hotels. In late summer, the plans for the breakfast are made with the Alumni Office, and the breakfast itself is in October.”
The amount of preparation that goes into this breakfast is remarkable. However, according to Dr. Snyder, something more remarkable is the diversity of accomplishments between this year’s honorees.
“On the one hand, we have Dr. Pascual. She’s an organist who works at, arguably, the country’s most notable Catholic cathedral. Under her belt, Pascual has a long history of church music, advanced degrees, performance, and an international profile. On the other hand, we have an artist who has an incredible talent for visual art. He’s local, he’s a recent graduate, and at the center of his work is advocacy. There’s a social engagement piece to his work.”
The breakfast is a tradition that began two years ago as a way to reconnect with alumni and recognize exceptionally successful graduates. To Dr. Snyder, it’s important that we maintain connections with our alumni, honor them, and continue to tell their stories.
“Our alums are our product. The faculty helps shape our graduates and our current students, and I think of alums as satellites. They go out into the world and they take a piece of this place with them and they make change and make art,” Dr. Snyder says.
“So it’s really important for our current students to have some sort of context to know what the men and women before them are doing with their JU education. It serves to inspire our current students and faculty, and gives us an opportunity to reconnect with alumni each year and connect them with what we’re currently doing.”
By Kamia Addison