Calisch Wins Excellence in Teaching Award

By Jim Amidon
  May 14, 2004

Driving Lessons
• Calisch Wins Excellence in Teaching Award

Prof. Calisch was recently awarded the McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Excellence in Teaching Award.


Wabash Dean Mauri A. Ditzler has announced that Douglas P. Calisch, professor of art at Wabash since 1980, has been awarded the McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Excellence in Teaching Award. The McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Excellence in Teaching Award has been presented annually at Wabash since 1965 and is a cash award for extraordinary work in the classroom. The winner is selected by a vote of the faculty.

"Doug Calisch could legitimately take credit for many of our best teaching practices at Wabash," said Ditzler. "Whether it is promoting student engagement or exploiting technology inside and outside the classroom, he provides some of our best thinking. And when I occasionally remember to thank him he is quick to give credit to colleagues."

Calisch, who earned his bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Illinois and his master of fine arts degree from the University of Minnesota, joined the Wabash College faculty in 1980. He had previously taught at the University of Minnesota, the University Without Walls, and the Woodworks School of Woodworking in Illinois. In 1984 he received the McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Research Fellowship at Wabash, as well as the College’s LaFollette Project Grant for Faculty Development.

At Wabash, Calisch has served three stints as chairman the Art Department. He was promoted to full professor in 1996. He has taught sculpture, photography, 3-dimensional design, ceramics, modern sculptural and architectural history, and art appreciation. Three times in his career he has taken his photography students on an "immersion trip" during which students spend three weeks in the summer camping across the American West. Along the way they learn about landscape photography and portraiture, and collect hundreds of images that they will study and exhibit throughout the semester.

Upon completing his first immersion trip with photography students, Calisch wrote in his journal, "Today, with the photography lessons behind us, I reflected on the larger lessons. I started thinking that the photographs taken by the students will reflect their different personalities and will help me to understand how each of these young men took in this journey. I look forward to working in the darkroom with each of these students, in part because I have learned so much about their personal vision. It is a wonderful position for a teacher to know his students this well."

Calisch will take 15 students to New Mexico and Arizona this August, spending much of their time at the 3500-acre ranch owned by Wabash alumnus Dick Gooding.

An award-winning sculptor, Calisch has exhibited his work at universities and galleries across America and in Japan, where in 1999 he was commissioned to produce a sculpture at Kotaki-Ji, a mountain temple outside the city of Kawachinagano. Helen J. Ferrulli of Arts Indiana magazine writes that Calisch’s art is "deceptively simple" but his sculptures "serve to engage people at the deepest level to make them feel and think." His sculptures have won awards such as the Indiana Arts Commission Master Fellowship, the Morris Goodman Award for Sculpture, a Lilly Endowment Open Fellowship, and the Best in Show Award at the Marietta National Competition. His work appears in more than 25 private, corporate, and institutional collections. Calisch is affiliated with the Ruschman Gallery in Indianapolis and the Judith Racht Gallery in Harbert, Michigan.

"Doug has always shown a penchant for living on the creative edge," added Ditzler. His longtime colleagues describe him as one of the most innovative thinkers on campus. Some suggest that he is among the most creative people they know. He thinks outside the box, they will say. These Wabash stories suggest a lifestyle that uses creativity for its best purpose, to enrich the lives of young people."

Calisch and his wife, Wabash theater costumer Laura Conners, are the parents of two sons, Nolan and Sam.