The Laguna College of Art and Design announced Jonathan Burke will succeed retiring president Dennis Power.
Burke, vice president of academic affairs and the school’s fine arts dean, was selected from a pool of roughly 50 candidates.
Burke began teaching drawing and painting at the private art college in 1980 and was instrumental in establishing the school’s focus on rigorous training in representational drawing, painting and sculpture at a time when most art schools had diminished or altogether disavowed the disciplines.
“He is the reason for the college’s emphasis on representational fine art and yet he also helped establish the current cutting-edge animation and game art major that puts the school ahead of most others,” said college trustee Mary Ferguson.
Burke, 61, has also overseen the college’s establishment of the Big Bend campus dedicated to graphic design including the innovative action sports design department and the South Campus student dormitories and studios established last summer. He is also proud to have raised $150,000 in the past year. “I am seriously committed to fund-raising and seem to have a head for it,” he said.
Still, the college felt compelled to make a thorough outside search conducted by Morris and Berger, an executive search firm. “Any organization is wise to look outside; you don’t want to become inbred,” said Power. “Now we are getting a double benefit in the most qualified candidate and an assured smooth transition since he has been immersed in the school’s culture.”
“Jonathan had to compete on issues of fundraising and academic and administrative leadership and prevailed at every step,” said board chair Stevan Gromet. “He only had a slight advantage by knowing how the school operates.”
In addition to his new responsibilities, Burke wants to continue teaching at least one drawing class. “Teaching is a lot of fun and it keeps me grounded,” he said. “It makes me feel like I am 35 again.”
Burke said that students’ well-being has always been a strong priority. “No one goes into teaching taking for granted that one ends up being president, but it’s something I really wanted to do for some time,” he said.