When I look back at my college years and think about all the professors and teachers I had, one man stands out clearly amongst them all. His name is Harland Goudie.
Harland taught Art at Knox College from 1954 until his retirement in 1990. Originally hailing from Montana, he came to live and teach in the cornfields of western Illinois. I remember him to be a wiry, thin man, with a weathered face that was often punctuated by a broad smile. He was someone you couldn’t easily pigeonhole. He embraced life as he embraced art – never afraid to wander down the less accepted path. To say he was eccentric would be an understatement. To say he was a learned man, a walking art history encyclopedia, would also be an understatement. As a student, I found him to be both whimsical and well-read, astoundingly so on both accounts. Often, in the space of just of few moments things escaped his lips that had me admiring his genius while at the same time smiling bemusedly at his absurd declarations inspired by the liveliness of his curious mind.
Indeed, Harland was a character. Being an avid jazz enthusiast, he played trumpet in several local jazz bands. He was also an accomplished runner. One can never forget him showing up to class dressed in khaki pants and jacket, and running shoes gracing his feet, his hair tousled and wild from a leisurely stroll across the quad. Other times he sauntered gracefully into the studios, stopping to chat with students and study their paintings thoughtfully. After a few moments, he tilted his head and tendered a few words of advice leaving the student to make sense of his words. He did not believe in showing his work to his classes because he feared they would slavishly copy his style. Instead, he actively encouraged students to find their path, giving them space to develop their artistic voices.
Faithful to this idea Harland gave himself permission to wander freely and attempt new styles. During the 1950s, when he earned his master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, Abstract Expressionism was popular. But ever keen to try new things and not one to adhere to easily identifiable individualist styles, he explored many different media, including painting, drawing, etching, “three-dimensional” painting – and many other forms.
Harland and Joanne at my wedding
Harland was a brilliant man and was recognized by the Knox faculty, which awarded him the 1988 Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Award for Distinguished Teaching by a tenured professor. The faculty also selected Goudie as the Sang Exchange Scholar to Oxford University in 1974. He also served on several boards to save and preserve historic buildings on campus, overseeing their renovations and remodeling.
I was a wide-eyed eighteen-year-old Freshman and Harland Goudie was the first to really open my eyes to the many facets of Art and the legacy artists. He pulled me by the hand over the threshold into a world populated by Caravaggio, Titian, Michelangelo, and i Macchiaioli. He was the professor that inspired and encouraged me to strike a new path and embrace painting, drawing, and Art in a whole new way.
Harland was also my inspiration for the character of Glenninghall in “Dreaming Sophia,” the exceptional art professor who also helps right Sophia’s world, helping her realize her dreams.