LCAD President will retire after 40-year run at Laguna Beach art college

LCAD President Jonathan Burke. File Photo

Jonathan Burke, president of the Laguna College of Art + Design, announced Friday that he will retire on Dec. 31, ending a 40-year career at the college and a 10-year tenure as its chief executive.

Burke announced his retirement in a letter published Friday, saying that he departs with great love and devotion for our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the Board of Trustees.

“Forty years ago, I came to LCAD as a faculty member with a dream to establish the finest of art colleges,” Burke wrote. “The history of this college is a success story and I’m so pleased to have participated in making that vision a reality.”

The Laguna Canyon campus experienced a transformational expansion under Burke’s leadership, adding student housing, classrooms, and studios at satellite campuses along the east side of Laguna Canyon Road. It also launched the LCAD Gallery in Downtown Laguna. With Burke at the helm, the school expanded its academic offerings to include the MFA programs in Drawing, Painting and Game Design, a Post-Baccalaureate program, and new majors including Entertainment Design and Experimental Animation.

Jared Mathis, chairman of the LCAD Board of Trustees, said Burke’s unassuming brand of leadership will be sorely missed.

“His spirit is woven into the fabric of the college,” Mathis wrote. “Under his leadership, LCAD has transformed into a premier art college with global recognition.”

Burke joined LCAD, then known as Laguna Beach School of Art, as a Fine Arts instructor in 1980. He soon took on the responsibilities of the Chair of Fine Arts. Burke went on to serve in dean and vice president roles before being appointed as the college’s President and CEO.

Over the next six months, Burke said he will focus on the planning phase for a new Student Center, which will be designed to support students with unique learning challenges.

Burke said in a statement that he looks forward to spending more time in the studio drawing and painting.

Like many higher education leaders, Burke faced difficult decisions to safeguard student and employees’ safety during the outbreak of the coronavirus.

In March, LCAD announced it would move classes online for the rest of the semester. The college had planned to shift its approximately 700 students to online courses by March 23. Instead, administrators decided to extend spring break by one week to provide faculty members with extra time to prepare an online curriculum conveyed via live streaming services such as Zoom and Moodle. The college also elected to cancel its in-person commencement and instead produce a movie to honor graduating seniors.

Burke was not immediately available for comment beyond his prepared statements Friday.

Hélène Garrison, COO and Provost of LCAD, said she’s grateful for the 35 years she has worked with Burke and that he’ll be missed.

“Jonathan has been the heart and soul of this institution since its early days and his commitment to excellence and creativity will long endure at LCAD,” Garrison said.

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  1. All the best, Jonathan. It was a pleasure to work with you. You answered phone calls and took great care that we could do our jobs, reporting on the many facets of LCAD with accuracy and skill.
    Thank you and good luck in your future endeavors. I am looking forward to seeing your drawings and paintings.
    Daniella Walsh, arts writer.


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